... that there was one all important theme that runs through all my published books that I hadn’t even noticed, and yet is central to them all. When I thought about it, it was so obvious I felt a fool for not recognising that it was there. Duh. I mean, how stupid can you get?Some time ago I came across a very interesting piece called The Three Abouts on Caro Clarke's writing website which is well worth chewing over. (As are the other excellent writing articles Clarke has archived here.)
There are three "abouts" to every story. The writer has to know the first one, has to learn the second, and has to accept the third.The first about is the obvious "log-line" of the story which you know before you begin. The second about only emerges as you rework and rework you piece, and is gradually pulled into focus. and the third about is the about the readers of the book see there, and it may well take you completely by surprise:
It is not the writer's business to decide what the theme, the third great 'about', of his book is. That is the readers' job. The writer has to choose the log line and then be adventurous and brave enough to accept what his story is telling him. The theme lies like a vein of gold within the story, formed by the pressures and fantasies weaving in the writer's brain, it lies waiting to be found. The theme is where the reader creates the writer.I remember Anthony Burgess writing in his autobiography (but cannot find the exact reference and am being driven mad looking for it!) that one day while he was a visiting lecturer at a US university, he stood outside the hall doors and listened in on a lecture about one of his novels - and was astonished that the lecturer revealed things about the book which had not occurred to him while writing it - although what he said struck Burgess as quite true.
It's nice, isn't it, to ponder the reader's role in making meaning?