Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I don't know about you, but I have a hard time with theme. Even back in high school, when I had to do a report on a novel regarding the theme, I wanted to cry.

Setting was easy. It's where the story takes place, and I always flew through those reports. Character was easy, too. Talking about the character, how they "grew" during a chapter, was drop-dead easy. Well, maybe not that easy, 'cause I'm still alive, but it was pretty simple for me to do. Plot was a breeze as well, since it was what the story was about. I could do that almost with my eyes closed. Almost. Usually, I had to leave at least one eye open.

Then came Theme. Describe the theme of the story. Wait, isn't that what the story's about?

Uh-uh. That's plot.

Um, is it about what the character does? Where the action takes place?

No, and no.

For those of you that find theme an issue, this is it in a nutshell: theme is a main thought or idea being addressed, woven throughout the whole storyline. It is the issue of the story. It is the core idea, the hidden message people take away from your tale.

Let's take The Lord of the Rings.

The plot is that a simple little hobbit takes on the burden of the One Ring, and pledges to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom before the Dark Lord Sauron should find it and use it to cover all the land in darkness.

The setting is Middle-earth.

The character is multitudinous; primarily Frodo, and Sam, but also Pippin and Merry, Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, Gimli, Theoden, Eomir, Eowyn, Faramir, Denethor, and Gollum.

What is the theme?

Since there can be myriads of thematic threads, the main theme could perhaps be that, no matter how bleak or hopeless a future looks, there is always hope.

It could also be self-sacrifice for the good of others. Gandalf 'dies' in Moria to save the rest of the Fellowships. Frodo and Sam 'abandon' the Fellowship in order to save their companions from the trial of Mount Doom. Boromir dies trying to save his two special hobbits, Pippin and Merry. Faramir risks his life in an effort to obey the wishes of his father. "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for a friend."

Last, (and I'm going to shamelessly quote from the movie Fellowship of the Ring here) it could be, "Even the smallest person can change the course of the future."

The theme depends on what you want people to take away from your story.


God bless!


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  1. Theme can be a tough one (though I've never cried over it ;) ). Now I'm wondering about the theme of my novel...

    1. LOL. Me too.

      I cried in high school... out of frustration, mostly. ;-) One of those seven things you never knew about me.

  2. Theme is so close to a plot... why can't we just combine them! Sure would make our life a little easier, huh.

  3. You know it's funny because a lot of people think you shouldn't even think about themes when you're writing because it can make you sound preachy. I say just write a good story and readers will come up with their own theme to take away from it.

    1. I agree. I wouldn't think about theme at all, except someone asked me about it. I think it's an unfair thing to ask, because theme is a myriad of things. It depends on the reader, and what they take from it. Besides, you might start with a theme in mind, but your character won't necessarily follow it. It changes. All the time. Or it grows. One or the other.

  4. I probably shouldn't admit this, but I never think about a theme when I'm writing. Don't ask me what the theme of my historical novel is, because.. well, I don't really know. Let's see: Follow your heart no matter the consequences? Do what you believe is right no matter how difficult it may be? I guess either of these would be right, probably the latter most of all. As for the current rewrite I'm in the midst of, my MC is in so much ( self-made)11 year-old trouble that the only possible theme for that is: Don't Disobey Your Parents! lol

    1. I know! I never ever ever think about theme while I'm writing. Then someone asks me what my theme is, and I really have NO idea. :-)

  5. I agree, Cat. Theme has always been a little trickier for me to wrap my brain around as well.

    1. Character, setting, and plot are so concrete. Theme is so abstract. I think that's my difficulty.


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