Why your story needs a theme?
A theme is the central topic that is explored in a story. Themes are not to be confused with the message or final takeaway. Some of the most popular themes used in fiction include hope, good vs. evil, coming-of-age, and karmic experiences. You can probably already list a few of the novels you’ve read or movies you’ve watched that have made use of these central themes.
Here’s why your story needs a theme?
A theme aligns the events that take place in our novel and give the readers something to relate to. Themes of good vs. evil are quite often used in the action-adventure genre because they give readers more than just an enthralling sequence. There has to be a cause that justifies the quest and that is what readers are compelled towards the most. Take, for example, Harry Potter. Would anyone care about his spat with Voldemort if the fate of their world did not depend on the light overcoming the darkness?
Similarly, Lord of the Rings plays on the same theme and has yet another similarity to Harry Potter, which is the central theme of Courage. The entire plot of both the series revolves around how great things are achieved by those who are not seemingly the most powerful but have the courage and nerve to do what others are not willing to do.
The fantasy genre is quite heavily influenced by the good vs. evil theme as can be seen from The Mortal Instruments and the stark similarities between Clary Fray and Harry Potter. The coming-of-age theme is quite often used in YA novels and the reason for this is because the theme guides the plot. Themes help writers determine how a story will progress, for the most part.
Themes give meaning to the story and help writers create the basic elements of their plot. Themes allow writers to conjure thematic statements which are essentially the final take away of the story.
How to define the theme of your story?
The easiest way to determine the theme of your story is to determine its genre and the target audience i.e. your readers. Sometimes although, themes have to do with the specific story. In which case the themes can develop naturally.
Your story may have a few running themes. It is important although, that your story has at least two themes that are explored and that it contributes to a thematic statement.
Wondering what a thematic statement is?
A thematic statement is best identified at the heart of a character’s experiences. Thematic statements are created by characters arcs. They are determined by the contrast between what your characters are like at the beginning of the story and what they become after the internal conflicts that they have experienced.
Thematic statements are what the readers to take away from the character’s experiences.
Often writers have to go back and hone their story to support the thematic statements that they have identified throughout the writing. The scenes you write may not support the thematic statement that you have defined but that is because the entire process is about discovery.
Thematic statements are subtle. They are something you show to the readers, not necessarily tell.
Themes and thematic statements are integral to a good story and yet many genre fiction writers fail to consider their importance. What’s even worse is the number of writers using themes as a means to preach in their stories. These misconceptions about themes can hinder a writer’s efforts to successfully create engaging and cohesive stories.
You may find themes in all forms of fiction writing and what they do is give a story purpose and meaning. To develop a theme, you must be careful to do so with intention, otherwise it can undermine an otherwise compelling plot.
What kind of themes do you find most intriguing?
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