Hello, friends! This week, I’d love to share some details of my book with you! I have been writing stories for a long time. Some of my first book ideas were contemporary fiction with mystery aspects, likely inspired by Nancy Drew. Another story, however, had its beginnings in the How To Train Your Dragon movie franchise. The first movie was released over ten years ago, and I watched it a while after it came out. It quickly became my favorite movie of all time. I was about ten or eleven years old when I wrote a story that was basically a HTTYD fanfiction.
None of the original plot survives today, and very few of the characters do. The only things that I kept from the original story were the idea of the main character having some sort of connection to dragons, the fact that she has a protective older brother, and the idea that much is at stake—the decisions of the characters will result in either the preservation or destruction of a kingdom.
I wrote about fifty thousand words on the original manuscript back in 2014 but grew dissatisfied with it. I started rewriting it from the very beginning, changing quite a lot. I didn’t plan out much of it; the story sort of shaped itself as time went on. I would add in little details as the inspiration came…fireflies, flower crowns, and fairies. Each notion of my young imagination found a place in the story, and over the years as I edited it, I changed it from a children’s novel to a series of five books for young adult readers: the Chronicles of Origin.
I have always struggled to find my story’s theme, however. Some writers begin a story with a theme in mind and structure the story around it. I attempted that with another fantasy book that I wrote, The Shackles of the Free, by giving it the theme of “what freedom means and how to attain it.” Unfortunately, I was never able to connect as deeply with that story as with my first fantasy series. So what sets apart the Chronicles of Origin?
Perhaps it is the fact that I poured so much of my heart and soul into the books. Many of the characters are an extension of myself and display the character development that I went through growing up. Their fears and struggles and joys reflect my own. That may be why the theme has been so hard for me to pinpoint. It’s a very complex story with multiple messages, and to force one specific theme into prominence would make it feel false and contrived.
I originally intended for the theme of my first book, Ashen Blaze, to be “Hope.” (I recognize that many people do not believe a single word can be a whole theme. So for a proper theme, it would probably be “hope will always prevail over despair.”) There are strong themes of hope throughout my books, from internal struggles with despair to motifs of light and shadow. My first book contains a lot of sorrow. Wave after wave of tragedy crashes against the main character, Ariella, and her reactions are often far from hope-filled.
This led me to consider what other messages I clandestinely wove throughout the tale. As Ariella struggles with questions about her past, she grows up quite a lot. As a child, she was mostly free from care and worry. Though haunted by shadows, she was protected from their influence by her family. As I mulled over this late one night, it suddenly occurred to me that the protection of her family might have ultimately caused more harm than good.
Certainly, her family members had good intentions. They wanted to shield her from the harsh reality of the world for as long as they could. Yet this protection left her ill-prepared for the troubles that would eventually dog her steps. What would be the other side effects of this unpreparedness? This question blossomed into a deeper revelation: she would not be ready to handle whatever future responsibilities were laid on her shoulders.
Thus, I realized the theme of my story must be “responsibility and what it means to be a leader.”
When I started my book, I wrote only “mature and responsible” characters, but then I realized I was making them too perfect. I had to give them flaws. So I made them struggle with anger, bitterness, fear, worry, and irresponsibility. I can tell you for a fact that there is much variety in my characters when it comes to being responsible.
Cadenza, for example, is the definition of a leader. She’s bold, confident, assertive, and protective of those under her care. She demonstrates an extreme of responsibility: wanting to take everyone’s burden on herself, even if it will one day crush her.
Alek is as confident and assertive as Cadenza, but he is also reckless and only looks out for himself. Krystal lacks confidence, but when she does speak up, no one really listens to her wisdom. Orin does not think highly of himself, but he is quick-witted and has a lot of common sense. While he wouldn’t consider himself a leader, he actually is one.
Ariella is somewhere in the middle. At times, she is careless, sharp-tongued, and rebellious, but she is also very thoughtful and eloquent. Yet the idea of responsibility scares her, so she much prefers to let other people lead. This is where it starts to get personal. Unconsciously, I gave Ariella the same flaw as me: even if for some reason I would qualify as a leader, I worry that I would not make a good one. Her journey throughout the series is a result of the questions I’ve asked and the lessons I’ve learned.
Without realizing it, I wove the theme of responsibility and leadership throughout my story. This came as a shock to me, but I rolled with it.
The other books’ themes are much vaguer, but I think I have determined at least a single word for each. If Ashen Blaze’s theme is Responsibility, the other books’ themes are:
- Book 2: Selfishness
- Book 3: Fear
- Book 4: Humility
- Book 5: Courage
All of them work well together, I think. You cannot carry responsibility without being selfless; you cannot lead unless you overcome your fears and allow yourself first to be led; you cannot be a leader unless you have the courage to do the right thing even when it might be costly.
These themes are united by the overarching message of hope: It is possible to overcome the darkness as long as you take responsibility, care more for others than yourself, face your fear, respect authority, and take courage.
These may be the themes of my life, as well. The characters learn lessons that I myself have been taught. Some people say to only “write what you know” but I’ve heard other writers assert that if you only write what you know, you’ll be extremely limited. At first, I only wrote what I knew, but if I had stuck to that, my story would still be as shallow and pointless as that original draft.
Truthfully, the journey of writing this series has taught me far more than I ever expected. I didn’t force the story to become what I wanted it to be; I let it shape itself, and me along with it. The result has been incredible.
On the subject of my book, I recently added another character profile to my website! This one is for Tabitha, a mysterious healer who lives in the village of Karis. If you have a moment to spare, feel free to check it out! (It’s near the bottom of the page.)
Until next week, my friends!