Using Death as a Theme for a Novel

Uncle Mike December 5, 2017

How do you find the theme of your novel?




For a writer, especially a beginner, starting a novel can be a daunting endeavor. We often fumble and grope our way into starting the first few words. But if we have a theme in mind, it makes it easier to organize our thoughts and guide it into the direction we want to take. A central theme can do wonders for our state of mind and the foundation of the story we are going to write. How do we find the theme of a novel? We read and observe, of course. A theme is a focal point in which everything revolves.

The most common themes are love, heroism, good vs. evil, suffering, and coming of age. Many writers also tackle the cycle of life. And with life, there is death. The latter can be used as a novel theme. In fact, it can make a simple idea more complex when we weave death with love, sacrifice, and suffering. According to J.K. Rowling, death is the theme of her phenomenal series, Harry Potter. Other authors who used death as the theme of the novel include Leo Tolstoy, C.S. Lewis, Mitch Albom, John Green, Jodi Picoult, Nicholas Sparks, and many more.

There are many ways you can use death as a theme of your novel. Here are some of them:

Highlight the Cycle of Life

When writing your novel, it is impossible not to tackle life. With life comes death. It is inevitable. You can apply the inevitability of death to your main character. There are many novels that tell the life and death of its hero or heroine. That way, you are exploring immortality. You can underline the importance of life and demonstrate that every breath we take is too precious to be wasted on petty things because sooner or later we all die.

Demonstrate Courage

If you want to create a character that is brave and courageous, you can employ death to make a point. Accepting death is one of the most courageous acts that a human can do. You can demonstrate your character’s fortitude by giving him or her the dilemma of death. It can be the character dying himself, or it can be the person closest to him. Your story can be a triumph over death.

Philosophize Death

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne wrote an essay called, That to Philosophise Is to Learn How to Die. To understand life is to understand death. Most novels deal with the transience of life, and there is no other way to show that than by examining every side of death. For some, death is the end. Others believe in eternal life. There are many who look at it as oblivion, and for them, there is nothing more terrifying than nothingness.

How about you? How would you employ death as a theme for your novel? Let’s discuss below. You can also connect with me on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter. If you want to read an enthralling tale, be sure to check out my book, Quasar.

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