5 September 2012


So far in this series, we’ve looked at character, settings and plot.  Today we’re going to talk about the theme of your story.

We write stories to entertain our readers, giving them an escape from their day to day lives.  But running along beneath the story’s surface is its theme.  In other words, the deeper meaning of the story.

Here are a few examples of theme.

Moby Dick is an adventure about a sailor called Ishmael, a ship’s captain by the name of Ahab and Moby Dick, a whale.  Ahab, after having his leg bitten off by Moby Dick vows to kill the whale.  That is the plot.  But beneath this story’s surface there is a theme.  In fact, there are several.  They are class, social status, good and evil and the characters pondering upon their beliefs.

Hamlet is a story of duals, murders and love.  It’s themes are revenge, moral corruption and tragedy.

Robinson Crusoe is about a man who becomes marooned on a desert island.  That is the plot, but it’s theme is the strength of the human spirit.

Rather than be contrived, a theme should evolve through the characters thoughts, the dialogue and transmitted by way of the settings.

If you’re writing a book, ask yourself what its theme is.  So the next time you are asked what your story is about you’ll not only be able to give a general rendition about the plot, but also the whys and wherefores of your story.


  1. Good advice Jill about sticking to a theme. If I had, perhaps I wouldn't shy away from questions about the one book I wrote. :)

  2. If you think about your story, Anna, you will be able to identify the theme(s) running through it.