Theme can be a confusing topic. Here are a few tips to keep your theme consistent throughout your story or novel.
How do I know if my theme is all the same throughout my story?
Good question, Lluric. Theme can be a confusing concept. We are often told that every good story revolves around a central theme. However, most novels and stories have multiple plot threads concerning a number of characters. In some cases, your secondary plot threads won’t have much to do with the theme of your main storyline. If your main storyline is particularly intense or dark, you may choose to have a secondary thread that is a little lighter. While it doesn’t have to stick to the theme of the story as closely as your main storyline should, it should still be related in some way.
Lets put this in simpler terms.
What is Theme?
The theme of your story is moral or purpose of the story. Whether you’re writing about vampires and werewolves or a crime solving detective, your story is going to have a basic theme. This could be something as straightforward as ‘good conquers evil’ or something as vague as loyalty or love. In the end, your story has to mean something, regardless of the amount of action, romance, or plot twists involved.
But What if The Story I’m Writing Doesn’t Have a Theme?
Sometimes a theme is the idea that sparks the story. You could be reading the news and suddenly decide that racism is tearing the world apart. You set out to write a story about it. You think up your characters, and then put them into a situation where their own racial prejudices will lead to ruin and unhappiness. You have a story and your theme is clear.
Other times, the story is sparked by something else and you don’t even consider theme until you’ve written half a dozen chapters. In this case, you have two options. You can continue writing to see if a theme develops naturally, or you can stop and decide on a theme to work with. I have heard arguments for both methods. In the end, the decision is up to you.
So, How Do You Keep Your Theme Consistent?
The best way to keep your theme consistent is to identify it and use it to judge each plot point and scene. First, ask yourself what your story is about. Write it down. Define it as clearly as you can. Try to get a solid answer in as few words as possible.
Power and Corruption
The Importance of Love
The Danger of Ignorance
The Power of Forgiveness
These are just a few of the many possible themes. For more themes, check out this list.
Once you have your theme, refer to it during writing and rewriting. Don’t worry if your story seems to stray from the theme from time to time. In fact, it’s often better if it does. Otherwise, you run the risk of sounding preachy and alienating your reader. You want your reader to come to see the theme of your story gradually. You don’t want to beat them over the head with it.
When you’ve finished writing your story, consider allowing a trusted friend to look over it. While this means you’re opening yourself up to their critique, remember that their questions and suggestions only show you where you can improve. Once they’ve read the story, ask them what it was about. You may be surprised at what they took from the story and what they didn’t.
If the theme of your story was conveyed to the reader, relax. Your theme is consistent enough for the reader to understand it. If your friend hands the story back to you with “I don’t know, it was about vampires and stuff, right?” Either consider having another person look at the story, or look over it yourself to see where you could emphasize the theme or where you might have strayed too far.
The theme of a story can be tough to nail down, but with a little work, you can build a story that resonates with a reader long after they’ve turned the last page.
Want to learn more about theme?
Here are a few websites that talk about theme and one book that includes a lot of helpful information on the subject.