Sometimes it’s the most simple thing that can turn us on our writing heads. The article by Sharon Bially and published on Writer UnBoxed was one of those. She tells the story of when her son was asked by his elementary school teacher to complete the following sentence about himself:



The most important thing about [NAME] is ___________________________.

Bially points out that this very simple sentence can be applied to anything, including your characters and your book as a whole and it will cut through everything to get straight to the heart.

What is the most important thing about your hero? Your heroine?

What is the most important thing about your book? Why are you writing it? What do you want people to get out of it when they turn the last page?

Sometimes, no, scratch that… Most times when I sit down to write a book I’ve got no idea what the theme of the book is. I have no idea what it’s really going to be about aside from Hero falling in love with Heroine. It’s a romance. That’s what supposed to happen. But always in any book—be them a romance, mystery, or psychological thriller—there needs to be an overarching theme. A message. And that message needs to be more than “love will triumph over all” or something like that for a romance. And it needs to be more than “the murderer will be discovered” if it’s a mystery. And so on.

Books are about more than what’s on the surface.

Yes, my romance is about two people falling in love, but there’s always a lot more than that going on. There are two people with their own problems, their own goals. The problems need to be solved and the goals achieved. The characters need to grow and learn and change, and while the romance usually helps them do this, there also needs to be some self-evaluation going on and some ah-ha moments as well.

To get to the heart of my romance, I need to know what the most important thing is about each of my characters – is it their problems? Is it their goals? Is it something completely different which I should be paying attention to when I’m thinking about how much they think the other person is really hot?

To get to the heart of my book, I need to know what the most important thing in the book is. Is it one of the characters? Is it the situation in which they find themselves? Is it a larger problem that is addressed? Yes, my romances are light and fluffy, but there’s always a deeper meaning to them.

In the last book I wrote (but have not yet published), Love in Spades, the big dilemma my hero faces (the one which keeps him from proposing to the heroine and tears him up even when he does) is asking someone to up-end their entire life and leave everything they know in order to be with him. He feels that’s too much to ask of anyone. It’s only when the heroine makes her own decision to leave her life and marry him that he can marry her with a clear conscience. So I would write that sentence in this way:

The most important thing about Love in Spades is being able to leave all you know for the person you love.

If I think about the book I’m writing now, A Token of Love, I’m not quite far enough into the book to know what it’s really about. I don’t know that I could finish the sentence. I have an idea but it’s still forming. I know that the most important thing about the hero, Christopher, is that he’s wounded, inside and out, and has to work on his healing process (which is what he does throughout the book both on his own and with the heroine’s help). The most important thing about Ellen, the heroine, is that she needs more out of life. She wants adventure and to be more outgoing, but she also really loves helping people so she’s torn—does she stay in her current boring life helping people or does she stretch herself out to be more and make more of her life? Which is more important to her? Herself or others? I know where I want her to go, but I have to find a way that would be acceptable to her to get her there—and yes, the hero and his needs are a huge part of that.

Knowing these things about my characters, delving deeper into my book, its theme, and deeper message will allow my reader to get more out of my books than they might have expected, and most likely than they actually realize on a conscious level. Sending a message of encouragement and hope to my readers even as they sit and simply enjoy a feel-good romance makes me feel good, it makes all this hard work well worth it.

So, what is your deeper meaning? What is the most important thing in your book? About your characters? Can you finish the sentence for yourself?


Please remember that I am always here to help you with these deeper questions and any other writing-related quandaries you might have. Just contact me or learn more about my coaching services by clicking here.