If plot is the body of a novel, then the theme is its soul. It is the subtle core, the message which the author wishes to convey. It is probably the reason the book was written in the first place, the motivation to spend so much time and effort in writing, that thing which you are driven to express to the world. What is your theme? You might like to sit and reflect on this one. You may come up with something along the lines of ‘Family is a Wonderful Thing’, or ‘Love Transcends Time and Space’. Reduced to their essence, themes can often sound trite or be clichés or proverbs: Crime Never Pays, Pride Comes Before a Fall, You Get What You Give. That doesn’t matter. Almost every piece of literature can be reduced to a line like this, and it’s good fun to find out what the line is.
Find your theme and you will find your book, its shape and the voice in which to tell it. This is just as important in historical fiction as in any other kind, perhaps more so, because it adds a new dimension, wholly unique to you.
Reduce the following to one thematic line (or make up your own list):
Romeo and Juliet
War and Peace
Lord of the Rings
Pride and Prejudice
‘Surviving wild adventures help you appreciate the little things of life, such as having a cup of tea.’ (Theme of Wind in the Willows and also The Hobbit).