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What's in a theme

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, July 6, 2018

A narrative theme is, in essence, the meaning behind your story. It also serves to tell your audience what your story is about. Establishing it’s core early on enables you to keep it grounded and focused as you begin to unfold your characters and plots.

Despite a longer piece of fiction may tackle multiple different themes as it goes along, generally it is a good idea, at least in the beginning to have one core thematic idea. Examples of themes include, “coming of age”, “individuality vs the collective” or “scientific discovery vs religious devotion”. These examples also inform the overarching conflict of the story from which your characters can explore both within themselves and their interactions with each other.

Your theme comes through your choice of first or third person perspectives or through the use of a narrator. Do you focus on an individual’s struggle with the chosen theme and conflict or will you use multiple perspectives to explore a range of aspects surrounding the issue? That choice is up to you, but your theme should sit at the core of each character’s struggle.

For example, you could have a travelling priest whose faith is challenged when he is joined by a travelling companion who performs what look to be miracles, but belongs to a different religious order. Now this theme, “crisis of faith” can be applied to a science fiction setting to high fantasy.

A narrative theme grounds the story in reality with the genre providing the execution and set of expectations. Once your audience knows what the theme of your story is, they can evaluate the character’s motivations and interactions and come to their own conclusions.

What is the theme of your story? Let us know in the comments below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST).

Till next time lovelies!



AmeliaP at 3:40PM, July 7, 2018

Emma, you nailed it with this article! Man, how many times writers talk describe a lot of things, but forget a story is about a theme(s)? Again, I highly recommend Film Courage (YouTube) to this theme topic.

Banes at 7:33AM, July 7, 2018

All of my comics are about unicorns. Actually, I know my comics have themes to them, and there's some kind of cohesive vibe to the whole thing but I'm not sure I could put it into words. In other things I've written, I figure out a theme but not so much with my comic. Excellent article!

bravo1102 at 8:25AM, July 6, 2018

"Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR, PER G.G. CHIEF OF ORDNANCE. I share Mark Twain's perspective on the topic of themes. But then as a sometime English teacher I have been known to find all kinds of intended and unintended themes in all kinds of stuff. Like the robofemoid series being about the objectification of women? Space Slave being about forced conformity in high school? Things may not always be what they appear to be.

KimLuster at 6:09AM, July 6, 2018

Good article! The Theme for the Godstrain was 'what is real?', although it certainly branched into tons of other themes! Godstrands? It'd have to be along the lines of 'dealing with the reality you created'!

Tantz_Aerine at 6:02AM, July 6, 2018

I got several themes in WM. War is hell, war brings out the best and the worst. Both sides can have good people and bad people- but perhaps it's a different story where these people end up gravitating towards.

mks_monsters at 5:14AM, July 6, 2018

The theme of my comic is very obviously duality both from within and without. For instance, the Victorian age had a romantic side, but also a very dark side. And also that duality is not absolute or cut and dry. Our concept of good twin and evil twin is outdated and wrong. There are different kinds of good and evil people.

usedbooks at 3:59AM, July 6, 2018

The theme of Used Books has always been Friendship. I can't recall any arc that deviated from that theme. -- Although class structure plays a role too, it's usually in regards to how it impacts relationships.

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