Themes for a Story: What’s it all About?

books with question, what is the theme of your story
What are you trying to say? How do you write about a theme?

Themes: What is the theme of your story?

What is story theme? What do you want to say?

What are you trying to say? What’s the big picture? Themes are generally considered universal. Think of the children’s story of “The Three Little Pigs” and what’s happening. The wolf, the huffing and puffing…it’s gently teaching a lesson and reflecting on human condition and behavior. It’s better to be prepared by doing things the right way. Cutting corners won’t save your “bacon” when push comes to shove.

So, looking at that you can see how even though we’re captured in the story as our parents read it to us, there was an underlying theme. Hard work pays off.

The theme is the deeper level of what your story is about. It uses these ideas to explore your story’s idea in multiple ways. When you’re thinking about themes for a story, think about what message you want to convey. Think about things you’re passionate about, something where you could argue both sides. It builds conflict, and lets you wrap your story around an idea.

person reading book, question asks what exactly are themes
What are themes?

Themes of Stories:

How about something like: drugs destroy lives, back in the day children should be seen and not heard was a common expression, or what about the struggle between loyalty and betrayal? Notice how these are “big emotional triggers” and you have a gut reaction to them. How swift or strong should justice be? Pro-life vs. pro-choice. What point are you arguing in your story? And it doesn’t have to be an argument. It can be gentle and as soft as a love story that stems around acceptance and self-worth.

By knowing the theme of your story, it will help keep you on track and give you guidance as you write. How can you show both sides of the story? Do you only want to show one piece of it? How can secondary characters help convey theme? But how do you write about a theme? How do you a theme include it in your story? Are there more examples of themes? Sure thing…keep reading!

bookshelf, how do you include your theme in your story?
What is the theme of your story?

Story Theme Examples:

Good vs evil is usually one of the biggest themes you’ll find, especially in action-thrillers. You’ve got a villain on one side, and the hero on the other. Who will win? Now, on the basic level you can explore this topic, but if you stop and think about all the layers you could tackle, your story will take on depth. Ex: What happens when a good guy makes a bad choice that causes harm? What happens when a bad guy has an empathetic moment? There are multiple shades of gray to explore through different character’s eyes. You get to decide how simple or complex you’ll delve into the theme.

Another example of story themes:

Consider the topic of faith. Maybe your character is questioning their faith after many years of believing one way. What happens when we buck the system and go against everything we’ve been taught? Your story wraps around the theme. It doesn’t have to be obvious and slap you in the face. It can be subtle, again, you get to decide.

Simply consider that by thinking about story theme before diving into your work, you’ll have another complete layer that will make your story more full-circle…dimensional.

What about love? Maybe you want to write about how love conquers fear, or what one must sacrifice in order to find true love.

Next time you’re reading, see if you can pull out the themes of a book. Writing themes is something a lot of beginning writers don’t consider. By tackling the idea of story themes, you’ll already be a step ahead of many others who simply didn’t take the time to research these things! Congratulations for wanting to learn more and write smarter.

TIP: Look at ethical and moral dilemmas as a way to brainstorm when you’re looking into writing themes.

Popular themes for literature:

  • You’re only as strong as you believe you are
  • Power corrupts
  • Loyalty vs Betrayal
  • Chaos vs Order
  • Freedom (loss of, gaining, fighting for)
  • Faith
  • Loss of innocence (seeing the world for how it truly is)
  • Equality (all of the time, or only some of the time)

Without a main idea, your book is a wobbly jellyfish. Story theme helps build structure and give your book shape.

How do you develop your story theme? Books with question
How do you develop your story theme?

Themes for a Story: How do you develop your story’s theme?

What type of theme interests you? Do you like stories about good vs. evil or justice being served? Maybe you want to look at a coming of age story and what it means to believe in yourself. What about redemption? Can a bad person redeem themselves and change? Or will they always be corrupt or trouble? What does it take to change? Loyalty vs. Betrayal. That could be about friendship, a corporate spy, or countries at war.

I hope this helps you grasp the idea of theme a little better. Let’s do a brief wrap up and see what we’ve learned.

  • Theme is the core idea of a book — what the author is trying to say via their story.
  • Themes are typically universal.
  • It’s the big picture of your story.
  • Ethical and moral dilemmas are a great way to brainstorm themes
  • You’re on a journey of gathering knowledge. That’s awesome. It’s people who have a vast love of words and desire to go the extra mile that will accomplish their goal of writing a book.
  • Want to write a book, but not sure where to start? Go check out that list of dilemmas and focus on a theme. It will give you a big head start and help you build a story with depth. Make your story about more than a superficial layer of nothingness. Add a theme and bring it to life!
  • Hard work pays off.

Looking for more writing tips? Be sure to check out 27 Story Tips for Beginners.

Looking for more information on themes? Reedsy has a great article on themes, as does Well-Storied.

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