Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.
Last week on our podcast we talked about theme, and we’re going back there again.
We know! We know! So scary. Why risk it again? We risk it for you, dear listener. Like a matyr-parent from the early 2000s, we’re writing your college essays and yelling at the soccer coach and doing the work.
Once again, what actually is a theme?
So, the theme is the central idea of your story.
“A theme in a story is the major idea that the story leans or surrounds. It comments on human experience, and more often a story relates to real life situations. All stories have at least one theme.
“A theme gives the general view of the story. It gives the reader the insight into how the story characters live to pursue something good, the results of conflicts and how all these choices come to pass in their lives. In a story, there can be major and minor themes.
A major theme is an idea the writer keeps on repeating in his work, portraying it as the most significant idea.
The minor theme is the idea that appears briefly in the story.
“A theme needs to be compelling and captivating. You need to think carefully when choosing a theme for your story.”
Let’s go simple: It’s the idea your story is about and it’s good to include a verb in that idea and a noun/subject.
Some writing coaches will say to never ever explicitly state your theme. Some coaches will say you should absolutely have a character state your theme early on in your story (first act) but have your main character not get it.
Over on the blog writerswrite, they give examples of themes:
Honesty is the best policy.
Who dares wins.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
Home is where the heart is.
The past is a foreign country – they do things differently there.
You never really know anybody.
People are predictable.
People with nothing to lose are dangerous.
Love conquers all.
Blood is thicker than water.
You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.
What does not kill you makes you stranger.
That site uses the Lajos Egri Theme Cheat Sheet, which is from Ljos’s book: The Art of Dramatic Writing.
And, according to Amanda Patterson who wrote that fantastic post, a theme is important and helps you actually write your novel because you then can make sure that every scene in your novel works toward that theme.
Over on the aresearchguide, they say,
“A theme gives a story meaning and hence creating an emotional impact. A theme creates a difference between a great story that readers can relate to and a mediocre one. The theme adds an in-depth and creates a connection to the story. It is necessary for an author to have a good and clear understanding of the theme (h)as this is the key to crafting great and awesome stories that readers will love.”
But it’s over on Amanda’s brilliant post that the three steps, the three really helpful steps, show up. These are a direct quote.
Thanks for listening to Write Better Now.
For exclusive paid content, check out my substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the other tips and submission opportunties and exercises are there.