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All genuine story relies on a Master Theme… that is, a message from the author. A statement, theory, idea, or argument the author puts forth as truth.
As a general rule of thumb, adults don’t like being talked down to. They don’t like to be spoken to as if a child.
Speaking to someone as if they were a five year old means expression reduced to its simplest form;
- Directly on the nose, lacking all subtext.
- Reduced to a dichotomy of right and wrong, with nothing in-between.
- Most significantly, not allowing them to come to their own conclusion, but instead, forcing them to accept your own.
This is the essence of delivering a Master Theme with a heavy hand and guarantees alienating and disengaginung your readers.
In my cyberpunk novel “Crashing Eden,” I used a theme “Is the use of technology a right or a privilege?”
If I had come out and simply had one of the characters say, “Everybody knows, technology is a right, not a privilege,” or vice-versa, this would have been a clear showcase of #1.
If my Master Theme has actually been, “The use of technology is a privilege, not a right,” and I proceeded to showcase instance after instance where I enforce this view and only this view, I would have created a clear and distinct dichotomy. My view is correct and anything contrary I do not show, so it’s either wrong, or simply doesn’t exist. A clear and distinct showcase of #2.
Notice, I used a question as my Master Theme. A question immediately sets you up for success by giving you two sides of an argument to explore, bypassing from the very start, the fundamental mistake of a heavy handed theme; the single viewpoint.
Remember the back cover of Storycraft for Comics;
The professional writer must cultivate these three in abundance.
In this case we hone in on, Objectivity…
The most effective method of delivering a message in fiction is by offering more than one side of an argument; by presenting your argument through subtext and allowing the reader to come to their own conclusion.
The better the job you do at making the argument believable from all sides, the more impact your own conclusion carries. In turn, without objectivity to see a contrary side to your message, as a writer, you and your message are lost.
Keep in mind, all Master Themes of fiction are not fact.
- Your Master Theme isn’t; H2O is the molecular make up of water.
- Your Master Theme isn’t; there are 200-216 bones in the human body.
- Your Master Theme isn’t; there are four seasons in a year.
While your message of fiction, may indeed ring true to most, or even be true for all intents and purposes… ultimately, a Master Theme is a writer’s opinion.
Simply telling your readers your opinion is correct, demands validation without earning it from your readers.
- You have to SHOW readers why your opinion is correct (through the achievements of a character over the course of a narrative).
- You have to PROVE to readers why your opinion is correct, by comparing and contrasting it to alternate views.
Simply asserting your opinion as fact is a sure-fire way to come across oppressive and dismissive to the reader.
Now that we understand what a heavy-handed approach to delivering Master Theme looks like, let us go further into a commonly related pitfall, the negative message… and the solution of counterbalance through objective writing to reach the most people possible with ANY message we wish to convey.