How to Define Themes in your Novels

Under the surface of every story is a Theme. But what is a Theme? And how do we develop one for our novel? You may have already drafted the novel without much thought to Theme, and that’s fine. This post will help you identify them so that they can be used to strengthen the story during revisions.

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When we think of fairy-tales, we think about morals it’s trying to portray. Theme is similar, as in it’s an underlining message to the reader, expressed through your character’s arc. The plot is what happens in your story, but the Theme is why it happens.

During your character’s journey, certain Themes will keep coming up through their goals, the conflict and then, the resolution. How do they overcome their character flaws? What holds them back from achieving their goals? What are they afraid of, and how do you force them there? How do they differ from the beginning of the story to the end? Their inner transformation may naturally hold the key to any Themes.

The polar opposite of each Theme might be used in a story to add depth and tension. Consider your favourite story and identify some of the conflicting Themes from the infographic below.

Another way to identify Theme is to consider what topics you’re trying to convey, in my Mischief and Mayhem I focus on the abuse of power and redemption. Through our writing, we express our views of the world, even if it’s subconscious at first. What is the prevailing mood/tone of the whole story? What messages have you conveyed about human nature and the world we live in. Do the events leave a sufficient and impressionable imprint upon your protagonist? The answer to your Theme may lie in there.

Of course, there may be many underlying Themes. You need only consider some of your favourite stories to explore and identify Themes. Take Cinderella, I would say the most significant Theme is good vs. evil. However there are also Themes of friendship, Death, and love. Every character’s journey will undoubtedly be complex. One Theme might weave through the entire story, while others only appear in a chapter or a scene.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

What is your favourite Theme to write about? And does this differ from the type of Themes you prefer to read about? You know I love hearing from you, so please share your experiences.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and, 2019.

Creative Writing Blog Directory          Lorraine Ambers writer and daydream queen -

33 thoughts on “How to Define Themes in your Novels

  1. Themes are so hard to put a handle on! They’re something I hated learning about in high school, but I find them so much more valuable now that I’m trying to write seriously.

    The primary theme of my manuscript “The Mercury Dimension” is self doubt or, more accurately, impostor syndrome. The main character is a shape shifter with alien outlooks on personhood and fitting into roles, and I think the theme fits very well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m continually amazing with how well you explain these tips! Great advice on when and why to include broader themes in your stories – they’re great ways of illustrating a character’s journey and emphasising important virtues to the reader 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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