"It's not the pearls but the string that makes the necklace." --unknown
In the art world, an armature is the framework that supports and ultimately gives shape to a clay sculpture. It's this wire frame that provides the structure and strength for the final product. Prop shops for movies use them, too, for monsters, masks, creatures, you-name-it costumes and props.
Two items of import are readily evident: An armature provides structure and it is invisible to the naked eye. It is an essential piece of the overall product, but the viewer should never see so much as a wire poking through.
As a writer, a novelist, why do you care? Well, Brian McDonald, screenwriter extraordinaire, explained it all like this: Your masterpiece must have a point that you're trying to prove. Every decision you make is based on that point. So, the armature is the message that your story proves. [Note: the message must go somewhere. You can't have a message like "love" -- but you can have one that states "love sucks."
Did I mention that it provides structure? And that it's invisible?
He also stressed that every scene must prove this point -- anything else just dilutes the message. Sub-themes may emerge, but they will always complement your point. Don't muddy the work.
Okay. I'll buy that. But I'm still wrapping my head around the invisible part. My reading sorrows of the past year have all revolved around the lack on invisibility of this armature. From Anthony Horowitz to Eion Colfer, I swear it feels like every YA author out there is clumsily foisting his personal message down my throat.
So, I'm curious: how do you balance the need for thematic continuity with the requirement of invisibility? Or do you even worry about a message or theme? If not, how do you achieve cohesiveness throughout your work? If so, how do you create the illusion that it's natural and organic? How do you make us forget the armature exists?