Themes, over-arching ideas and character conflicts in my new novel


The Three Rondavels in Mpumalanga, South Africa [a rondavel is an African-style hut which is conical or cylinder shaped]

The esteemed Professor Charles F. French has written a fantastic post about how to world and character build in a horror novel series. I thought his points were great and certainly are not restrictive to horror novels only so I decided to apply his ideas and suggestions to my WIP, A ghost and his gold, and see how that panned out for me.


I had my general themes for A ghost and his gold in place prior to starting to write and these have expanded over the course of the book:

  • The impact of greed and corruption on countries and people;
  • Bad decision making and their effect on soldiers and civilians;
  • Evil perpetuating the development of hatred and evil;
  • The effect of war on the political and social development of a country;
  • The individual mindset versus the group mentality including pro-war propaganda;
  • Death; and
  • The reality of war.

Over-arching ideas

My main intention with this book is to describe the events and circumstances of the Second Anglo Boer War which resulted in the emotions and feelings that remained among the different cultures and populations after the war and set the stage for the future of South Africa.

Gold is a repeated theme of this book and is included in the title, together with ghost as this book is historical but has a strong supernatural thread.

Conflicts faced by my characters

The story line runs on two timelines, the present and the period 1899 to 1902.

The modern timeline characters are Michelle and her older husband, Tom, an upper middle class couple living in Irene, near Pretoria in South Africa.

Michelle’s major conflicts are dealing with Tom’s deception and lies and Tom’s are dealing with his guilt and the fact that he did not take responsibility for his actions at a point in his life and this has come back to haunt him [literally].

On the historical timeline, there are three main characters, Pieter, an Afrikaans farmer who fights for his independence and country, Robert, a British soldier who is in Mafeking during the siege and Estelle, Pieter’s oldest daughter, who is interned in a concentration camp and witnesses the deaths of her mother, aunt, sisters and cousins.

Pieter’s major conflicts are justice, guilt, fear and anger which develops into hatred; Robert’s are disillusionment and an gradual loss of patriotism and idealism, internal conflict and anger and Estelle’s are anger which turns to hatred as a result of the lack of accountability by others for their actions and their effects.

The conflicts which face each main character all revolve around the war and its aftermath and illustrate how the past impacts the present and the future.

The lives of the characters are at stake due to the war and the circumstances that Michelle and Tom find themselves in at the current date.

The characters must fact their pasts and resolve their anger and hatred issues in order to find redemption in the present.

Thank you to Charles French for this useful post which has resulted in the above which I have found a useful way of pulling my thoughts together and ensuring my story is on track to achieve and deliver on my themes. Fortunately, it is.

You can read Charles’ original post here:


45 thoughts on “Themes, over-arching ideas and character conflicts in my new novel

  1. I think it’s exciting to deal with the present and the past in the same story. After all, isn’t that everyday life? Our past can impact on our present and often our future. We are connected. We are not separate from what we’ve done, as in the case of Tom. I think writing extends dimensions inside our mind exploring capabilities that we never knew we possessed. The very best of luck to you in this current pursuit.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Robbie – your book sounds like it has all the important elements to make it great. I love stories that have all these layers of themes and conflicts. Thanks for sharing Charles French’s post too. Heading over there now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wrote a collab along these lines, only we ran on a single timeline with backstory hits on the “ghost” who, might have been a ghost, or an undead or a mutant as a result of his exposure to “the Crown’s chemistry boffins” during WWI. A 100 year old cover up conspiracy involving a prominent political family comes to light. Gun runners, ex spies, a police woman and two romances, one 20, and one a hundred unfold.
    I learned keeping track of Gothic adds way more dimension to a caper than I expected. Particularly the reader (and author’s) suspension of disbelief. Good Luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That was enlightening. Your themes are vast, far-reaching, and amazing. And pretty specific. Mine tend toward ‘hope vs hopeless’ sort of stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As you probably know, I have a fondness for books that address past and present timelines. It sounds like your plot is multi-layered and complex, the kind of book that draws me. Happy writing, Robbie!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As a neophyte on word press, I would like a link to your other 6? Novels, and read one of those while waiting for the first chapters of this one to drop. Africa is a continent I have immense affection for. Especially, the swahili portion Kenya, Tanzinia, and adjacent.

    South Africa, has been more of a hobby, The Covenant by Michner, and The Power of One, by Bryce Courtney. The film version has a soundtrack to die for. Available for free on Spotify. Maybe a good background noise as you continue on this creative journey?

    The film has a very young Morgan Freeman, a middle age British team. Sir John Gielgood (sp?) And Lawrence Oliviiea (sp?).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You are in the midst of creating a thought-provoking story, a series of interconnected characters whose lives are affected by something far bigger than themselves. The personal side of war and its destructiveness that is underreported. Kudos to you, Roberta, for undertaking this.

    Liked by 1 person

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