Bigger Books and Themes

March 25, 2011 by in category Lyon's Lair tagged as , , , with 6 and 0
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by Jennifer Lyon

A friend and I were discussing what makes a “bigger” book. There’s no real definition for bigger, but the one thing I can guarantee you is that it’s not word count. Words are a tool to tell a story, they are NOT the story.

So what is “bigger?” I think it comes down to universal themes that resonate with a larger audience.

For instance, in the Harlequin/Silhouette category books, like Desire, Special Edition, Super Romance, etc, the writing is tightly focused on the emotions of falling in love, and therefore, limits the audience. That does NOT make these books any less enjoyable, it just narrows the audience.

But a bigger book has more ‘commercial’ themes. As an example, let’s talk about the movie Ghost. It works the same in books or movies, and my husband and I just watched it over the weekend so it’s fresh in my mind. The movie has been out for something like 20 years, yet it has a timeless quality to it, and I think that’s because of its themes.

The sudden loss of a loved one. Every person has or will experience this.

What happens when we die? Look at all the books, movies, religions and philosophies dedicated to trying to explain it.

Can a dead loved one reach us? Can we reach them? There’s a whole industry of psychics and others making money off “contacting the dead.” The emotional fragility of grieving will make even the strongest of us reach for any flicker of hope.

Letting go of a loved one. There’s many shades to this one. In the movie, it was time for the hero and heroine to let go of each other so the hero could move on. I had a moment like that with my mom at the very end of her life. She was so sick and I remember the moment clearly where I finally closed my eyes and said to my deceased brother; “You can have her now. Anything to stop her pain.” I was ready to let her go and she passed soon after that.

Betrayal by a friend. In the movie, the hero is betrayed by someone he knows and trusts. Who hasn’t at least seen that happen if not experienced it?

These themes touch all of us, helping us to relate to the movie or book on a personal, intimate level. And that helps create a bigger feel to the book.

In my books, I try to find these universal themes. It’s even more important, I think, because I’m writing paranormal. In NIGHT MAGIC, my heroine, Ailish, is handfasted to a demon and has two weeks to either complete the bond and become a demon witch (who is evil), or she dies.

Now I doubt many of us have ever been in that predicament. But the core theme there is something like: Can a good person be betrayed or tricked into becoming evil? That’s a pretty timeless theme, one that religions have explored and argued since the beginning of time. These themes spin off into more:

Betrayal: Ailish trusted her mother, and she betrayed her.

Redemption: Can Ailish atone for a mistake she made when she was 16?

Handicap: Ailish is blind, something that I believe really humanizes her.

Can she face her own death?

How far will the man who loves her go to save her?

I’m using the idea of “themes” here loosely, but these are the universal concepts that we have some familiarity with and therefore connect us to the characters strongly enough to feel like we’re in their skin. We understand their struggles and conflicts.

Of course, there is so much more that goes into writing a bigger book, and characterization is key. All these themes and ideas are nice, but they must be told through the characters in an authentic, three dimensional way. But that’s another blog!
What is a theme in books or movies that you love or hate?

P.S. NIGHT MAGIC, the third book in my Wing Slayer Hunter Series went on sale March 22nd, and the forth book SINFUL MAGIC will be out May 31st.

Jennifer Lyon always wanted to be a witch. When her witch-powers didn’t materialize, she turned to creating magic in her books. NIGHT MAGIC is the third book in an enchanting, passionate and supernatural series. Jen’s also has a super secret alter ego known as Jennifer Apodaca, the author of the award winning Samantha Shaw Mystery Series. Visit Jen at http://www.jenniferlyonbooks.com/

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6 Comments

  • Anonymous
    on March 25, 2011

    Thanks, Maureen! That means a lot coming from you.

  • Anonymous
    on March 25, 2011

    Great post, Jen! and oh my…just finished NIGHT MAGIC and I think it's my favorite so far! So emotional and rich….wonderful book!

  • Anonymous
    on March 25, 2011

    Marianne, thanks! And thank you for your help on it when I had my back against the wall!

  • Anonymous
    on March 25, 2011

    Kate, wow, thank you! I'm so touched. And you will remember that I did NOT feel like I knew what I was doing while writing that book, LOL!

    And what's this about you not being a witch? I don't think I got that memo… 🙂

  • Anonymous
    on March 25, 2011

    Hi Jen,
    This is a great post on universal themes. Like Kate, I'm reading NIGHT MAGIC and truly enjoying it. I think it's one of your best books.

  • Anonymous
    on March 25, 2011

    Hi Jennifer! What an insightful post! I'm reading NIGHT MAGIC right now and I can completely relate to your characters, even though I'm not a witch. No really, I'm not! 😉

    Seriously, your characters, Ailish and Phoenix, are so completely real to me. I feel their anguish and their struggles and their love and distrust. Everything. It's so clear that you know what you're talking about when it comes to presenting universal themes that reach out and connect with the reader so deeply. Thanks!

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