A question from OYAN that I thought intriguing.
How important is the message of a story? If some readers don’t even pay attention to themes, why do we as writers have to work so hard to put them in?
No one pays attention to the preachy themes. 😛
The theme is subtle. It works into the undertones of the story, shines out through the character’s actions, through the climax and the ultimate defeating of evil. The reader sees the characters’ victory and thinks, Hey, I’d like to do that. Or perhaps, they wish to be LIKE the characters who radiate Truth.
For instance, the Harry Potter series. I’ve rarely seen stronger themes of selfless love and self-sacrifice than in those books. The reader thinks, I want to be like [insert character name here]. The character radiates the theme, the reader wants to be like the character, the theme leaks into the reader.
Alternatively, the Showdown may slam the reader in the face. The purpose of the negative ideal/reversed-ironic ideal is to take the villain and show his evilness, and then take a mirror and show the reader his evilness. The reader sees that it’s wrong FIRST, and then sees that he has those same qualities and seeks to effect a change.
I almost clicked “publish” before I realized I could add another dimension to this. ME [OYANer quoted above] said, “If some readers don’t even pay attention to the theme.” But even if only one person reads our stories and is impacted by the theme, we as writers still have an obligation to write themes.
“Now the tax collectors and sinners [ME, I’m not saying anything about you XD] were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’
“So he [Jesus] told them this parable: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.’ ” (Luke 15:1-7, ESV)
If we are called to be like Christ, then why should we give up on that one person who may be affected by the Truth in our stories? So what if there are ninety-nine who don’t need it/don’t care? We are called to spread the Gospel–to spread Truth–and if by including a Theme we can reach that one purpose, then we’ve fulfilled what Christ commanded us to do in the Great Commission.
So all this to say–yes, a theme is necessary. It doesn’t matter if only one person gets it. Angels rejoice when a sinner comes to light and recognizes the Truth. Writers rejoice when we’ve been the conduit of Truth.