You know how movies can have a great musical score playing in the background (or not so much in the background) that expresses the theme of the movie perfectly. You can do the same thing in your books.
No, no, I’m not talking about using musical scores in audio or digital books, though that could be cool. I’m talking about using a cultural device (like music) to capture your theme for your readers. For example, while Star-Crossed does use music, they also use a thematic nod to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Personally, I hope they come up with a better ending. But, the point is that the nod to Shakespeare draws attention to the fact that the story taking place before your eyes is a love story that is about prejudice.
Think about Romeo and Juliet. People like to talk about how it’s this great love story, and it is, sort of. But that’s NOT what Romeo and Juliet is about. Put it in context and you’ll see what I mean. Remember, William Shakespeare was a playwright. His work was performed live in his own time. Now, from what I know, the place where his work was performed wasn’t the kind of place most teenagers would be allowed to go. It wasn’t like opera or elite theater, and they certainly didn’t have movie theaters with matinees. It was on the seedier side of life, at night, and historians like to report that the area was full of a great deal of debauchery. So, teenagers we NOT Shakespeare’s audience, which isn’t to suggest adults can’t enjoy the love story—of course they can! The point, however, is that the adults of his time were more likely to identify with the parents—whose perspective starts and ends the play—who created the tragic situation that got their kids killed. It was the prejudice of the parents that made the story tragic. Romeo and Juliet is about prejudice; and so is Star-Crossed.
By using a familiar (if sometimes poorly understood) culture reference, you can subtly express your theme without beating readers over the head with it. In fact, Shakespeare was something of a master at this, though it’s harder for us to appreciate it without studying literary history and learning more about his time period. Take a lesson from a master and use the cultural references of your readers to help make your point.