Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Themes - Got it!


I went off to do more research on themes and much to my surprise, many others seem to be as perplexed by this term as myself. Or is it just that I don’t want to feel left out?

I found there were thousands of theme articles on Google (no surprise) and looked for some of the least intimidating.

I liked this one - A theme should be a statement that expresses a universal message. But once I read this list: Birth, Death, Heroism, Escape, Love, Journey, Coming of Age, and Patriotism…. taking these terms literally, they really didn’t describe how the theme of birth for instance would be woven into a fictional story.

Wait…how about the birth of new life-style taking over a pathetic existence lived by
a person in the beginning.

Okay, I’m feeling maybe I’m on to something here. Take Death…it could be the death of self-pity or bad behaviour to be replaced with t new attitude because of overwhelming conflicts in the plot.

As I went through each word, I could come up with examples that would work until I tried…Love.

It was the most difficult. Because there are so many themes around love, it’s hard to pin one down. Until I thought of my latest release “His DeviousAngel” where my hero, who is suffering with post traumatic stress disorder, hates himself for the things he was forced to do while in combat. He also has an ongoing situation with his mother and father. Issues that he has to deal with are tearing him apart and only love will heal. And our heroine’s biggest lesson is to learn to love the person she is and not the way she looks.  

Okay…I think I’m getting into it now. If I took every one of the seven topics, I could twist them to fit into my book in some way. In other words, I really don’t believe there is just one theme to a person’s life and therefore there can’t be one theme to a character in a book, or in fact, to the story.

Granted, there might be a main theme, I can accept that. But I honestly believe that a truly well-written piece should have many themes interwoven for complexity and interest. And that for each person who reads the tale, it might mean something different because everyone who is reading it is searching for their own answers.

What do you think? Am I on to something here?




  1. I believe that agents and publishers when asking for your theme, expect only one as it is the universal overview of your story. What happens to your characters is the plot and its subplots. What the book is about overall is your theme, i.e. redemption, salvation, self-destruction, coming of age and the like.

  2. Hi Christina,
    I have to say that you've made more sense in your statement than most everything else I've read. So using this theory, if asked for Devious Angel, I would say Salvation - because both characters had to work throughout the story to save their self-image. Whew!! I feeeeel good!!

  3. Themes usually grow organically. A good theme isn't intentionally inserted into a piece of fiction, but grows out of the nature of the story. At the editing process, you may spot that theme, and the sub-themes, and polish them to bring them out more, but still they are rarely inserted intentionally.

    At least, that's my opinion, and Stephen King agrees, so if I'm wrong, at least I'm in good company ;-)