Welcome to the grande finale of Getting To The Heart Of Your Story! I’m so excited to wrap up this series with one of my all-time favorite writing topics.
A simple word, but with so much power. Let’s get to it:
|(Pictures from Pinterest. An epic post deserves an epic picture)
What is theme?
When I think of the word “theme,” I think of birthday parties. You know, when you were little and you’d have a “cowboy themed” birthday or a “princess themed” birthday.
According to the dictionary, theme is a subject of discourse, discussion, meditation, or composition; topic.
Theme is the topic of your novel.
Sounds big and daunting, doesn’t it? It’s that one thing that novel is about, beneath all the plot twists and complex characters. It’s the backbone. It’s the big picture. It’s what the reader is going to walk away with, or part of it.
A theme for your novel is going to be one word, like hope or justice or forgiveness or slavery.
Wait a moment. I’m telling you to have the reader finish your book with just one word on their mind?
Theme is two-fold: the theme is the single word, the topic, but what the reader walks away with is the message.
hate know school papers, right? Think of the theme as the topic, while the message is the thesis. Simple as that.
But how do you figure out that message?
|(Pictures from Pinterest. Sorry, I’m having an issue with epic pictures today)
The Soul of Your Story
Doesn’t that sound freaky? But it’s true. The theme is what brings your story to life. This is what’s going to impact the reader, and possibly change their life. And, if you write Christian literature, it’s what’s going to give them a message without being preachy.
So, find a word. One word that is going to arc over your entire novel. If it’s personal, even better. Hope has been a big one in my life lately, so hope is a theme for one of my novels.
Now ask a question about that word. If your theme is courage, a question you could ask is: when does courage become foolhardy?
Go back to the school paper analogy. That question is making your “topic” not so broad. The question is part of your “thesis.” The other part of your “thesis” is the answer.
And the answer is what your story is going to show, and that’s the message the reader is going to walk away with.
Weird, right? Those techniques you use (or used) in school can help your creative writing. Find a topic, ask a question, and answer it. Then, spend the entire story showing the answer. Show multiple answers. But end with the one you want the reader to walk away with.
I could go on forever like about this. I’m currently taking a writing class on theme, so I just scratched the surface with the basics here. But it’s so important to make your writing meaningful, no matter what kind of writing you do.
|(Pictures from Pinterest)
So how do you get your message across? With the events in the plot?
No. What the characters do is going to get the message across.
I look at it this way: the character is looking for something at the start of the story. That something is your theme, like courage. The “question” is the question your character is asking himself about courage. And he’s going to spend the novel trying to find the answer. He’s going to fail multiple times. That’s what makes the character arcs and the plot. But, in the end, he’s going to find an answer, and the reader will find that answer with him.
There’s so much to explore with theme. I’m now starting to plot all my novels by first finding a theme. I always chose one that’s important to me. When I don’t feel like writing, I remember the theme, I remember the emotions I have attached to that theme, and I just let the emotions flood out on the page.
I know, I’m starting to get poetic (and I’m not even a poet :P). That’s how I see it, though. That’s how I see this wonderful, beautiful, wild crazy world of creating stories.
It’s awesome 😉
Whew! That was a lot! I feel like I learned more about my writing process by getting it out and telling you guys! Thank you for listening and bearing with me. I hope some of this might help your own writing.
Since this was so fun and I got positive feedback on it, I’m thinking of doing another series sometime in the future. However…I can’t decide what I want it to be about. I’d love it if I could borrow an extra 30 seconds of your Saturday morning and answer one question below. You can stay completely anonymous and vote!
(here’s the actual link, in case you can’t view it)
Thank you! Expect to see the posts sometime within the next few months!
Check back next Saturday for…
beta reading sign-ups and a post on my novel?!?
See you then 😉
– Audrey Caylin
Thanks for reading and chatting with me about plot and characters! What do you think of theme? Have you heard of these techniques before?