The Importance Of a Good Theme

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If you couldn’t already tell by the few excerpts of my WIP that I’ve posted,  I write mostly fantasy. And sometimes, when I read fantasy, they tell really good stories with complex characters and a back story that pulls me in and hold on tight, even after the very last page. But there aren’t many out there that speak to something greater than itself.

I think this goes for all genres, too. The best sci-fi is known for examining our world through another, different themes such as identity, or gender issues, or even familial connections. I love those stories, because they speak to something greater than just those characters in the story. They talk about our world.

These are the books you pick up, and as you read, something within you is struck, like a plucked string in your chest, or in your mind. Somewhere. It’s probably a subtle change, and suddenly, the story becomes real to you. You get attached, and once you reach the last page, that very last word, you feel the desperate need to either read it again, look for sequels or more books that are similar to them.

Now, I’m not saying that other stories that don’t do this are shallow, or not good.

Not at all.

Sometimes, these details are subtle, sometimes it’s blatant, and sometimes, we’re just not supposed to take anything more from the book than what it is. It’s funny simply because it’s funny, and you needed a laugh. Or it’s cool, simply because it is. Nothing more.

But I want my stories to be something more.

I’ve read a lot about “Writing what you know” and “Writing what you don’t know”, something that has become one of the many debates in our little writing community.  And I think that, we as writers are supposed to write what we know, meaning themes that we relate to either personally, or through our relationships with others, in worlds we don’t know at all. And this is especially true with fantasy. For my current WIP, I want it to discuss expectations (self expectations, teen expectations place on by peers or adults/ and disappointment/being let down by others or having to let others down.) I’m sure there’s more things, but these are the ones I’ve identified.

So when you figure out what themes you want to talk about in your story. Be specific. Don’t just say, “I wanna write a story about honesty, or bravery.” Tell me how this applies specifically to your story and your characters. Has your character been lied to all his/her life my loved ones, or maybe believes in always telling the truth, even if it hurts simply because it’s the right thing to do. Does s/he feel that honesty is stupid because it’s never actually the truth, only one side of the truth?  Go on with it.

Rant about these themes (in notes, not in the story. please…)

Go on and on about it until you find something specific, something personal.

Or even, find a question that you’re addressing, something that will be answered at the end of your story. Not just the characters goal, or the story goal, or even the sub plots. What are you really talking about? Are you talking about the relationships between men and women? Children? Are you trying to explore what it’s like to be a particular kind of person? Do it.

Think about it. Write it down. And remember it. Because I’m pretty sure that someone out there, someone who will one day get to read it, will relate. Trust me. You’ll teach them something new, or remind them of something old, or even make them understand what they hadn’t before. For me, that’s the magic of writing. The magic of reading, too. I may not have touched many lives with my writing (yet) but I know exactly what that feels like. And I want that for my readers.

Even in romance, when your hero and heroine meet and subtly (or not) seduce each other, make sure your showing what you want to show to readers. Think of every story you ever tell as a fable. A lesson is learned, even if it’s something like, dont ever go into a forest alone, or check the date of your milk before you drink  it. Something. Anything.  Write something readers want to share, can’t not share with others.

It doesn’t have to be world shaking, life changing.

And it doesn’t have to be ordinary, or mundane.

It’s just has to be there.

What do you think? Do you agree with me? Disagree?

And let me know of any stories you’ve read that have done something like this, answered a deep question, or examined our world, or relationships, etc.



5 thoughts on “The Importance Of a Good Theme

  1. Yes! I absolutely agree with and love this post 🙂 I think that is such an important part of writing–because yes, sometimes writing is just for entertainment or escape, but really it should be something more. That is the point of writing. Stories speak to us in a way few other things can. Words can be extremely powerful, and even change lives. I think a story should always be more than just a story.


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