Oops, I Accidentally Slipped In Some Heavy Themes

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read The Grave Blogger yet, you may want to skip this blog post. Some of the information will reveal bits of the story-line that could spoil the ending for you.

When I set out to write The Grave Blogger, my primary intention was simply to entertain. I didn’t feel the need to write the next great piece of fiction that would be studied in English classes in the future, or even be discussed by Oprah’s Book Club. My goal wasn’t to impart deep wisdom or help solve any of the global issues facing society today. I simply hoped to provide a few brief hours of entertaining escape into the world beyond reality.

While I think I accomplished my goal (or at least I hope I did), I realized that I’d subconsciously interwoven a few “literary” themes throughout the story, in spite of my best intentions to avoid it. I doubt many readers will notice these themes, as they are subtle. I didn’t stop the action during the story to make obvious references to any of these threads, and their subtlety probably keeps them from being noticed at all. That’s ok with me, obviously, since the entertainment value is most important to me. Nevertheless, if anyone did miss the subtle threads woven through the tale, and would like to have them pointed out, then this blog post is for you.

The Bad Guy Is Always Male

Statistics show that the majority of violent crimes – around 95% in fact – are committed by males. It’s just a simple fact, so it’s not surprising that many mystery / suspense / thriller novels involve one or more bad “guys”. There’s good reason why “the bad guy” is the common phrase used. Rarely does anyone wonder who “the bad gal” is in a story. And yes, the bad guy in The Grave Blogger is indeed male, so there’s no strange twist there. Although this aspect of the book doesn’t deviate from the norm, readers will discover that there is another “bad guy” who plays a small, but pivotal role in the story. This bad guy is actually female, and an argument could be made that she is in fact more evil than the central bad guy character.

The evil female in this case is someone who is in a position of power over a group of people who are unstable, vulnerable and mentally incapable of preventing the abuse of that power. The reader only gets brief glimpses into this woman’s world, but it is enough, I hope, to underscore the concept that power is perhaps more powerful than gender in determining root causes of violence and abuse. In the current patriarchal society in which we live, men hold the power; men dominate; and therefore statistics such as the one above aren’t surprising. I believe that if the axis were shifted 180 degrees, and suddenly women held the vast majority of the power in our world, that we would see the stats shift. It may not happen suddenly, but over time, I suspect that eventually 95% of the violence perpetrated would be by women.

So what “lesson” am I trying to impart in all of this? That our world needs to evolve to the point where power is shared equally among genders, races, and nationalities. Of course, perfectly shared power is a Utopian world that isn’t likely possible, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to reach for it. The closer we get to preventing lopsided power among any “group” of people, the closer I believe we’ll get to drastically reducing the violence that is so rampant in society today.

The Characters Behave The Way We Expect Them To

In many books of this genre, you’ll find the attractive female protagonist, who may have a strength of character, but nevertheless needs rescuing by the handsome detective. The detective may have rough edges or he may be a virtuous knight in shining armor, but the one thing we can always expect is that in the end, he will vanquish the bad guy and save the beautiful woman.

The Grave Blogger does indeed have the attractive, strong female protagonist and the handsome knight-in-shining armor detective. The two do have the expected romantic spark between them. But in this case, the handsome detective is not the one who ultimately defeats the villain and saves the woman. He certainly has a hand in doing so, and his efforts are valiant, but in the end, it’s the unexpected character who wins the battle. I don’t think the reader feels any less of the detective because of this, but it is a little surprising and out of the range of our expectations. We not only count on these characters to be the heroes of our novels, but we expect them to be the heroes of our lives.

This, then, is my way of saying that sometimes it’s not the strong, handsome “good guy” who is the hero. Sometimes, it’s the person that goes unnoticed who is able to set our world right again. When we stop placing expectations on who can or cannot be a hero, we begin to accomplish two things.

  1. We remove the pressure from those who feel they must always live up to the expectations we place on them to be heroes. These may be our star athletes or movie stars or police officers. Whoever they are, we often expect them to perform in a certain way, even if they aren’t capable of living up to our expectations.
  2. We allow ourselves to recognize the unsung heroes in our lives, who may be overlooked and virtually invisible, and yet they accomplish great things, whether or not we notice. Not all heroes are obvious, and we should pay more attention to those we pass over in our daily lives.

The Story Always Has A Happy Ending With The Romance Working Out Perfectly

Just as our handsome detective doesn’t fit the typical mystery genre mold, the main female character doesn’t react in exactly the way we expect either. We expect the budding romance between the two central characters to walk off into the sunset, in love and together. What we don’t expect is for the female to walk away instead, with the possibility that she may or may not return. But that’s exactly what the end of The Grave Blogger delivers.

The Central Theme? Control

When I sign the book for someone, I always try to write a little something that has meaning to that particular person. Perhaps I’ve only just met the reader, and have spoken with them for less than a minute, but I try to find some small personal tidbit about that person that I can include when signing the book. No matter what I write to that specific person, however, I always include one extra line before signing my name.

“Control your destiny!”

This is my one non-subtle hint that there actually is an underlying “literary” theme to the book. Of course, only those who possess the actual paperback and have been able to get me to sign it for them will ever see this hint. I guess that’s the perk of having a signed book; the chance to have one tip that others don’t get.

So…back to the theme of control. Of course, we can refer back to the first theme mentioned; that of power. Power and control go hand in hand. Those with the power are those that can take control over others. The Grave Blogger’s main character has spent the majority of her young life trying to find a way to take control over her own life. She only discovers later that others have ripped the control from her, and in the end, she defeats her own personal enemies that have prevented her from making her own choices through the years.

She exhibits this reclamation of control most strongly at the very end, when she doesn’t fall into the arms of the handsome detective. When asked what she will do now that the ordeal is over, we expect her to walk off with him into the sunset. Instead, she admits that she isn’t sure yet, but the one thing she is sure of is that she will decide her future. No one – neither the bad guy nor the good guy – will make that choice for her. She will control her own destiny from now on.

Power, Heroes, Control

So despite my early insistence that I only wanted to entertain, and I didn’t want my novel to be a source of discussion of any of our world’s issues, I accidentally (?) included these threads anyway.

To wrap it up, I unintentionally revealed a few of my personal beliefs.

  1. Striving for a balance of power may be one of the best things we can do to curb the violence that has always been so prevalent.
  2. Our perceptions of who and what a hero is often leads to placing unattainable burdens on those we expect to be heroes, and we therefore often fail to see the true heroes that live among us.
  3. Ultimately, we must prevent anyone – good or bad – from taking the control of our minds, bodies, and spirits away from us.
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