How to Create Strong Themes
A story without the backing of a theme is little more than a list of events.
If you were to pick up a book right now you’d have a hard time trying to tell me that it has no themes. Nearly all literary novels are built on the foundations of themes. They are one of the pillars that go hand in hand with your plot and the development of your characters. So, it may come as a surprise that a lot of writer’s struggle with embracing a strong theme. If you are one of these people, then you aren’t alone!
Many thrills seeking writers like to beat their readers over the head with their themes, and many fantasy writers like to capture the reader’s imagination through their themes. The problem with this is that sometimes a story’s theme can overshadow the plot.
Throughout this article, I’m not only going to teach you exactly what a theme is and all the different sorts you can integrate into your story, but how to create a plot strong themes.
What Is A Theme?
A theme is one of the strongest tools a writer can utilise for their story. It’s a statement that you make about the topics that are covered and discussed throughout your novel. So, how does it relate to your plot? Let’s look at it this way:
Look at your story as though it is a human being. The plot of your story is the heart. It’s the very central foundation, what gives life to your story and your characters. The theme is the pulse, the beating of your story’s heart that keeps your plot and characters moving forward.
Enough about anatomy! A strong theme, which is what we are going to cover today, is one that connects to your readers and attracts them to your characters. It is supposed to hook your readers into the journey’s your characters will take and leave them wanting more or thinking about your novel long after they have finished. It’s all about letting your readers discover what’s between the lines.
In order to frame your plot around a strong theme, you first have to find it compelling. If you don’t, then your reader most certainly won’t either. So, what makes a compelling theme? Take a look at the example below.
The Many Themes Of Harry Potter
I know that I use Harry Potter as a reference for a lot of things, but it truly is a masterpiece! To break down the use of a compelling theme, we’re going to take a look at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Strone (or Philosopher Stone depending on where you’re from).
The first novel in the epic series has many, many themes, but we are only going to cover one in this example which I believe, and I think many can agree with me, is the strongest theme of the series and drives the plot forward. The theme I’m talking about his family.
The family is a huge theme throughout the series, and what drives the protagonist Harry Potter. A powerful and dark lord killed Harry’s parents, and when we are introduced to him he misses them very much. He is stuck, unfortunately, with his Aunt and Uncle who have no love for him. This particular part of the theme suggests that blood ties can only go so far and the relationships Harry has with his family don’t necessarily mean that love is felt.
When Harry goes to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, he meets an array of people from his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, Ron’s family, fellow students, and teachers. Each one of these come to care for Harry and love him, and in return, he feels the same way. He chooses his family, and this is ultimately what he fights to save and protect for the rest of the series.
As you can see, family isn’t the main plot. The plot of Harry Potter is the fight against good and evil, and the leading up to the all-out battle between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. Family, however, has an influence on Harry’s decisions and also compels the reader to really root for certain characters and the bonds they share.
What Are Some Examples Of Themes
If you aren’t sure what makes a strong theme, then I’ve got you covered today. Choosing a theme can be difficult because you want to make sure it compliments your plot, not overshadows it. Here is a list of themes you might consider for your novel:
- Coming of age
- Good versus evil
- Spirituality and God
How to Create Strong Themes Around Your Plot
Now that you know what a theme is, how to utilise one, and some examples of themes you might like to use, you may be wondering how to centre your plot around it?
The best way to integrate your theme is through your characters. This may be through their flaws, their obstacles, or their goals. The underlying message of your novel will naturally unfold as a result of your characters and how they change throughout the course of the novel. As a result, your readers will be able to identify the themes you’ve placed throughout the story.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Who is my protagonist?
- Do they have flaws? If so, what are they?
- How do the events of my story shape the development of my protagonist?
- Does my protagonist overcome their flaws or the obstacles they will face? How?
- Has my protagonist changed from the beginning of the story? If so, then who are they now?
By answering these questions you’ll find that the themes of your story will naturally arise. The question you have to answer is what you want to say about these themes.
And that’s it! Have you got any other ideas for a strong theme? Hit me up in the comments and let me know!
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