Should a writer know the deeper meaning behind their book before they ever start writing it?
Some think so.
I don’t work that way. I find it stifles my creativity. I find my characters won’t open up to me if I try to force them into some box. I write stories about people. I figure out who my protagonist is, then I build the world around them. When I know who they are, the main story problem happens.
I only recently figured out that The Page & The Magician is largely a tale about learning to accept oneself. I didn’t start there. I started with a character who had been through an awful marriage and was moving to the big city for a clean slate. Josy really wanted to live a boring government worker life, but she discovers she belongs to this whole other world that is far from boring. That whole other world scares her because she’s scared of a lot of things.
The thing is that I didn’t originally intend to write an urban fantasy romance. I tried to write something else, but it was lacking that special something. It needed more layers and depth.
JK Rowling created the dementors to be the force that keeps wizards from breaking out of jail. They represent depression. The deeper meaning behind it being that only you can drive away the darkness in your own life. The spell Lumos is another example of where she talks about the light driving away the dark.
She created dementors out of her own experience of depression.
I’m the kind of writer that needs to bleed onto the pages, for the most part. I need to have experienced something similar to write about it. I need to write what I’m feeling and not overthink the deeper meaning. I save that for editing.
Maybe that seems like I am writing in the dark with only a flashlight to let me see what is nearby, but it’s working for me right now. And that’s the thing. Writing is subjective. Really, it’s whatever method works for you to birth that book. And that may change from book-to-book.
JK Rowling extensively planned the Harry Potter series, but she didn’t start there. She wrote her first book at age 6 and another at age 11.
Just write the first draft and the rest can be figured out later.