What Is A Theme In Literature?

A Theme: The Heart of the Story

The theme is the message or the lesson that the author wants to convey with his story. The theme is synonymous with root idea, central idea, goal, aim, driving force, subject, plan, plot or basic emotion…

The “meaning” of a story, is not something to plan prior to writing. It shouldn’t be. It should arise from your characters and your plot naturally. IF you sit down to deliver a Great Message to the reader, above everything else – you are an essayist, not a novelist. You may have to flesh out other elements – such as characters or plot before the governing theme begins to fully emerge.

The theme is the why of your brand. It gives your brand meaning. Also called “a controlling idea” and defined as Value plus Cause.

Holly Lisle – the Themes of her Life:

  • That people matter
  • That love and time is all we have to offer each other
  • That death is a mean bastard and he comes for all of us.
  • That life is worth living, no matter how painful or scary it gets
  • That magic is real.

Find out if the story you are writing is about good versus evil, or about the transcendence of love. It will unify your book more than anything else.

The original idea is the foundation of your novel. It is the first idea that came to your mind that was the seed of your novel. Everything can change, but this idea can’t. It might be a person, a place, an event, a moral. But you had it before you began writing, and you must remember it as you write. You should be able to tell it in one sentence. If you don’t your story will suffer. The writer will arrange a series of experiences, which revolve around a certain theme.

The original idea in Enamored Gods is the love between immortals.

After you have the original idea, you spend a lot of time working on it and developing feelings and thoughts about it. Look at your main characters and try to predict, what will happen to them emotionally, spiritually and physically – who were they in the beginning of the story, who are they at the end.

Instead of the term theme – Bob Mayer likes to use a term stolen from screenwriters – and that is Intent. It’s absolutely critical to have an intent to your stories, beyond simply being entertaining. You should be able to state your intent in three words:

Love conquers all

The Initial spark for the Enamored Gods is Gods are sexy, or the allure of Gods.

You may even state it in one word:

Relationships, Honesty, Faith, Fathers, Courage, Dreams, Fears, Hope, Friendship, Love, Achievement, Peace

All Stories Have Themes

Put simply it is what the story is about.

The theme is a question that the story has to answer.

It shows to readers what you believe in.

The plot is the theme in action.

What do you want your readers to feel when they’ve finished your book?


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