samuel x. brase likes to write

Foundation: Themes

Posted in novel planning by Sam X. on 17 April 2009

I need to construct this novel from the ground up. I can’t dive into it. I don’t have to figure everything out, but I do need to see the blueprint.

I think the first thing I need to know, the pipes running under the ground and the foundation, are the themes. Next is nailing down who is a main character and who is a secondary character — these would be the main pillars. Beyond that, all that remains are the main events that determine the flow of the overall story. That’s as far as I’m willing to take my planning. I need some of it to come about naturally (something that is, I like to think, one of my strong suits). This keeps the story vibrant and keeps me interested. I don’t have to keep all the improvised material, but it will add a lot overall. 

So first up. Themes.

The end of the universe (and the exploration of another) is the obvious main theme. This is the theme of life and death writ large. I’ve spent my entire writing life looking for the big play, the big move, the checkmate, and I think this is about as far as I can take it while still allowing the happy ending that I crave. I want the checkmate where at least some people escape relatively happy. 

Other themes include the fact that these people believe they are the chosen people when in fact they aren’t. That’s not a theme. What’s the theme here? False belief? Mistaken belief? Misguided belief. That’s good. Misguided belief plays into the idea of believing one’s religion is the right religion, that what you know is correct and other people are wrong.

In fact, misguided belief fits a lot of the various issues I want to target. War, greed, energy, zealotry (political and religious). That’s good. I’ll have to hone that down somewhat, see what parallels I can exploit. I also want to use the color grey — a direct response to traditional themes of good and evil, black and white. I strongly believe the world is not constructed in such a sense and that to tell stories with that reflection is a boring conceit (this is one of my complaints about Lost; way too much focus on the black and white dichotomy).

There are a couple dichotomies I do want to explore. Progressivism versus traditionalism, and equilibrium versus entropy (or status quo versus change). I imagined a brief monologue where someone tells someone else … “maintaining the status quo is impossible. Our universe is one of entropy, degeneration. Throughout it, energy is being displaced, channeled, used and discarded. Suns emit light which plants and microbes gobble up until carbon lifeforms such as ourselves consume those plants until we die. Eventually there won’t be any more energy. Equilibrium is impossible.”

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