I saw Rob Sawyer talk this weekend and he left me thinking (late at night when I should be doing other things) about the exercise of writing the ideal book review for your own novel and how that's a real bitch, you know?
I don't believe, as Sawyer does, that there must be a grand, worldwide theme to every work--meaning, we don't need to make a socio-political statement with every book. Sometimes themes are quiet and personal: one step for man rather than one giant leap for mankind. I think that's ok, but tight genre markets notwithstanding, the country, the world, is at war. People die horrible deaths every day, leaving behind an increasing black hole of hatred as their only legacy. Part of our job as writers, artists, as human beings, is to plug up that hole.
Why didn't I take like four more hours of English, I ask you? Because I was a moron in my twenties, and poor besides. Despite that nearly completed English degree, I'm shit for finding themes in other people's writing. If you tell me, it suddenly becomes so obvious, but usually I have a tough time articulating it. I more "feel" themes, and yeah, I know, that's what you're supposed to do as a reader. But writers must be able to describe a theme is in so many words. I like the notion of starting with theme and writing to it, but alas, my themes are buried beneath mounds of dysfunctional layers of conscious and subconscious. It takes me a draft or two to figure out what I am trying to say.
I think that's what I'm trying to do with writing a synopsis for Exiled--make a mini-draft and skip a step. It worked, too. The book mostly says "no matter how far you run, you can't escape what you must do." It's also about family and parenting - how a kid will make you face your demons every time, as well as the happier truths in your heart. It's also about letting that kid fly and be who they're meant to be, even if it's not the life you would have for them.
So yeah, I'm tackling big ones, I think, which means a lot of pressure. But it's also a relief to realise that we're not just about soccer games, gas prices, health care, or even the next president. I think we're still about broken levies and broken skyscrapers and broken hearts. We're about burning rainforests and diseases that fight back and seeds that will never germinate. We're thinking of soldiers marching to a centuries old war and the parents who must let their children go to that war. We're thinking of people scrounging a living from the rubble, of the orphans of Religion, and how God never meant for faith to become a battleground.
At least that's what I'm thinking about. I guess that's what I'm writing about, too.