Hello from novelist Gail Gaymer Martin at www.gailmartin.com
Recently I attended the Gideon Film Festival and Media Conference at Ridgecrest and learned many techniques for writing screenplays. These same points work for fiction as well, and I believe that many screenwriting techniques can enhance fiction. In the next five weeks, I will share these points with you.
The first point was: Define the overall theme or meaning of your work. What will happen and why does it matter? Why? If your story does not make a difference, if it doesn’t matter, then why write it? How can it serve the reader?
Think first of non-fiction novels. Can you imagine reading a book that didn’t have a point. A non-fiction
book focuses on a topic or theme, It has a purpose. Fiction is no different. Your purpose could be to point out the foibles of the human condition. It could be to dramatize how a mother’s love can push her to give her life for their child. A novel can be a story of good versus evil and shows the power of good.
It can show the power of love. It can dramatize that we are not alone, that others share our fears, worries, or sinfulness.
When a novelist sets down to write a book, he has an idea. It may begin as people doing things, but if it
doesn’t have direction or purpose, it falls flat. Think of Gone With The Wind without the backdrop of the Civil War. How long would anyone remember that book?
As an author of Christian fiction, my purpose is often focused on a Bible verse that sums up a major idea in the book. For example, Proverbs 16: 9 reads: In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. This book would be about someone who has made a life plan— a career, a goal, success, fame, an accomplishment—but things happen, and the character realizes to reach that goal, he may have to give up something else equally important.
While you might not write Christian fiction, any genre can be summed up in a sentence that points out
what the major theme or purpose of your novel seems to be—good wins over evil, love is worth fighting for, a parent will give their life for their child, lies tangle lives, gossip only begets gossip, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and laughter can heal. You can think of many more. These themes work
for a romance, a thriller, a western, or any genre.
I know this works because of reader mail. Letter after letter reveals how my novel has made a difference in someone’s life. They tell me what they learned about themselves or about someone else. They tell me how they found an answer to a question or how they realize they need to ask questions about their life. They walk away with something that has made a difference.
When you sit down to write a novel, ask yourself what you want the reader to take away when she finishes. If you can’t answer the question, this is the reason your story is not making an impact on an agent or editor. It might be why a reader enjoys it for the moment and can’t remember the title or what it was about two days later. Write so that you make an impact on your readers with a purpose. Create a theme or a message that you want to leave readers with at the end of your novel, and you will have written a memorable story that makes a difference.