I’ve talked before about the fact that books & stories are not necessarily about what they’re about. As a writer, I love that fact; I love using subtext and themes to communicate my own thoughts and feelings in the work.
I have, in past posts, described what Wrath & Tears is really about, talked about that one key image that really defines the book for me: one broken kid holding the body of another, far more broken kid. But what is the key image for Silence?
Given that the current story is only about a third of the way finished, that’s harder to say than you might expect. But…I write the end first. And the end, in the way I write, is that key image. The end is the thought, and the emotion, I want to linger in the reader’s mind as they walk away.
So what is that image? Where Wrath touched on suicide, and my own memories and experiences thereof, Silence is about the search for meaning – for faith, if you will – and the realization (Wish? Hope?) that there really is more to life than this.
If, in my own life, that is a question very real and hard to answer, just how much worse is it for a street kid who has never had a chance in the world? For years, Connor’s world – his meaning – came down to just one thing: Oz. The two needed each other not just to survive, but to truly live. But Connor grew and changed where Oz could not, and a big part of his problems in the first story came from his unspoken, unrecognized need to search for more.
Recognizing that need is hard, even for an adult. For a 17-18 year old kid? Yeah, right: self-reflection and self-awareness aren’t exactly part of the standard equipment. I will reiterate something a very smart lady named Janet Reid once noted: “a 17-year-old boy is just a walking erection with an iPhone.”
And, no, that is not the main/final image for the current story!
So, we have this issue where Wrath is unabashedly and unashamedly sad, but Silence is intended to (re)introduce that one concept so glaringly absent from the first story: hope.
That theme and image, then, comes down to one thing for me, to something Connor would never have considered a year ago. It comes down to the realization that, regardless of how broken and screwed up both he and the world are, he has to believe. Believe not just in himself, but also in something bigger…the realization that he has stand for something. It comes down to that same kid – broken and hurting still – reaching out for help to the one person he fears above all others.
As a final note: the theme of the third book is already decided, as well. Hell, the third book was decided the moment I wrote the final scene for Silence.
The key is in fact hinted at throughout all of Wrath & Tears, actually: alone is worse.
It’s time to really tackle that concept, and to touch on in a new light Connor’s struggles from the first two stories.
It is time, when you get right down to it, to tackle the concept of family…and everything contained within that incredibly loaded word. It is time, especially, to address the reality that Connor learned so early, and so painfully: some families you’re born into, and some you choose.