The Writing Life
The Novel’s Theme
The novel’s theme is the main idea that you are trying to express through your story. Your novel has a message upon which the story is built. This message is universal in nature and applies to all people in all walks of life. Every story has a theme and this theme, though not always directly expressed in words, says a lot about human nature.
A theme such as good versus evil has been expressed in many stories. We like to think that good will always prevail in the end. However, when evil people seem to win out in life, then we add a new dimension to the tory. This could lead the writer to base the story on the premise that evil intent is what motivates many people to seek and to win success and prosperity. But in the end, good always seems to prevail.
Another story theme might be about betrayal in love. Relationships are built on trust. When that trust is betrayed, then all sorts of conflicts might arise. Betrayal might lead to sadness or revenge or desperation. These emotions then lead to more conflict that drives the story forward.
While writing your story, constantly remind yourself of the theme to your story. Write your theme on a piece of paper and place it in a prominent place when you sit down to write. Have your story’s theme always playing in the back of your mind like background music.
While the theme to your story is seldom stated outright, it is through the thoughts, words and actions of your characters that the point of theme is made. Make your theme so powerful and compelling that the reader cannot help but understand the universal truth that you are trying to express.
The novel can have more than one theme. Several themes running concurrently through your novel add depth and complexity to the story. Themes like war and courage can be juxtaposed against the themes of individual identity and independence, creating many opportunities for the writer to create both outer and inner conflict between and within the characters.
Your novel’s theme is the foundation upon which your story is build. Theme along with character, plot and other story elements all work together to create a story that the reader finds both fascinating and powerful.
Some readers and writers consider theme and plot to be the same. The real difference between the two is that plot is the thoughts, words and actions of the characters, while theme is the universal lesson that underlies the plot.
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