I know the word “theme” probably brings many of us back to analyzing books in English class and trying to figure out their Great Meaning, what they’re Saying About Society. But the longer I write, the more I realize that theme is actually extremely useful in creating a story. Not in the Great Meaning sort of way, but in Making Sure My Story Holds Together.
Obligatory cat picture:
Why am I thinking of theme? Well, as I’ve been plugging away at revising Book 2 (which I guess I should start calling by its proper name, MY EPIC FAIRY TALE FAIL) I’ve realized that one of my editor’s comments basically boils down to theme. When I look at the major themes in Book 1, for me they’re about accepting your identity and about overcoming fear.
But when I tried to come up with a nice, succinct theme for Book 2, I realized I didn’t have one. Uh oh. That was not a good sign. So I started brainstorming, and I realized that my character didn’t have enough of an emotional shift in the story. Once I knew she needed a bigger emotional arc, the theme came in all by itself: Never give up.
So there you have it. My argument in defense of theme. For me, theme isn’t about what the story Means; it’s about what you want your reader to take away from it. Once you have that, the theme can help keep you on track from beginning to end.
Anyone else out there use theme when creating a story?