What Possible Theme Can Day Zero Have?

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What Possible Theme Can Day Zero Have?



As anyone who wants to grow in their abilities does, I’ve been reading more about my craft. I’m very aware of the journeys that my characters go through but I sometimes lack the vision to actually SEE the thematic edge my work has until it’s completed. I’ve heard of writers who have to know their theme before they write so that they can point all of their arrows at it. Whenever I’ve tried to do that, it seems very contrived.

But theme is important. Without meaning, what is the point to a story besides to entertain? It makes it the candy fluff of the literary diet. And I want to be more than that.

Luckily, even when I’m not “writing toward the theme,” I instinctively have a meaning to my work. “And, what would that be,” you ask?


Anybody can be a villain or a hero in any circumstance. It’s all about choice. If one allows themselves to just react emotionally, most of us will probably fall back on our basest selves. Unless you are just naturally good (which is incredibly rare…let’s be honest), you have to consciously make the choice to do the right thing.

Once I realized that this is a major theme in the DAY ZERO series, I also realized it’s a major theme in ALL of my work. Very few of my characters are pure, whether it’s pure good or pure evil. There are exceptions…but even in those characters, there are flaws. Isn’t that what makes us all so interesting anyway?

Here are some examples:  WARNING: There are a few spoilers. Not ones that will take away from the story but may take away a few surprises for you.

Patrick is very slippery on the moral slope. We learn, even from the beginning, he does what he has to do to get a sale. But we find later that he does things that are violent and unacceptable by regular society at an alarmingly fast rate. It shows he had the capacity for that sort of behavior all along. Living past his Day Zero just released him from polite society expectations. He even learns to revel in causing pain, reminding us of our ultimate villain, Reuben. We like to think that Patrick is just using this behavior as a coping tactic after all his losses. We shall see.

Isaiah does terrible things for good reasons. Does this exonerate him from the violence and murder? What if he’s wrong? His warrior nature needs an enemy to fight to make sense of who he is and what role he plays in this world. He reminds me a great deal of some of the characters in The Walking Dead. They do horrific things that they wouldn’t have in the normal world, but their new reality makes them see things in a new light.

In the pure realm, there are Mama June and Reuben. One light and one dark. I’m sure that Mama June isn’t immune to the terrible thought, while Reuben might be capable of something kind. June treated Reuben with more kindness and humanity than any of the others while he was in captivity. As for Reuben, he has already determined that, for her kindnesses, Mama June will not suffer by his hands like the others will.

Redemption is available for all of the characters. Preacher is the example of this. Despite his religious title, he took a very dirty road to become a voice of God, as you will see further in Lost: The Story of Preacher coming out soon.

In my stand-alone upcoming psychological thriller, SLEEP TIGHT, every character has negative motivations to harm the main character. No one is above suspicion. So it makes for a nerve wracking experience when she’s trying to find who is tormenting her. It makes Charlie question all of her relationships.

I’m fascinated by complicated characters who may be good but do bad things or bad that do good things. It’s what I am so grateful for as a Christian with God’s grace. No one is perfect and there are many who spend a lifetime fighting their natures in the name of walking in the light but fail completely.

So what do YOU think? If you’ve read the series so far, who do you love for their complicated journey? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

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