T is for Theme

18 Oct

“I stick to simple themes. Love. Hate. No Nuances. I stay away from psychoanalyst’s couch scenes. Couches are good for one thing.” – John Wayne

The theme of your story is the lesson or moral. It is a subtle way for the writer to share a view about life.

The twelve most common themes in literature:

1. Man struggles against Nature

2. Man struggles against Society

3. Man struggles to understand God

4. Crime does not pay.

5. Overcoming Adversity

6. Friendship depends on sacrifice

7. Importance of family

8. Yin and Yang

9. All you need is love

10. Death and life

11. Sacrifice can bring rewards

12. All humans have the same needs

As a writer, you should not use theme to preach. The reader should be able to discover it through the characters, their actions, and the setting of the story. It should be the writer’s way to connect with the reader with an experience everyone can relate to.

What kind of themes do you experiment with your work? Do you start out knowing what the theme of your story is or does it evolve as you write?

Watch for next weeks blog. U is for unstuck. I attended a writer’s workshop in Minneapolis recently. The presenter was Debra Dixon. She gave us a method to use when you get stuck. I thought it was very helpful and I think you will too.


1 Comment

Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Writing a Novel


Tags: ,

One response to “T is for Theme

  1. Margot Kinberg

    October 19, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Virginia – This is a very helpful post on themes. And I couldn’t agree more that there is a difference between exploring a theme (which can be fascinating) and using one to preach, which puts most people off. But themes do underlie our work so it’s useful to explore what they are. I write crime fiction so I basically explore themes such as conflict, the effect of crime, family issues and so on.



Leave a Reply to Margot Kinberg Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: