Too often, I’ve seen the definition of “theme” regarding a novel relegated into something like “this is the plot” or “this is what happens in your story.” This makes our heroine’s teeth grind in a ladylike manner, dear Reader. It also inspired today’s Forum.
A theme is so much more than the distillation of the plot into a sentence or two. It may be abstract within the novel, veiled or outright stated. It is the novel’s focus, its thrust, its main point. What is the purpose of the plot? What message are you conveying throughout the story? The theme is the backbone of your novel.
Getting the theme clear in your mind as you begin your writing is an important aid to writing well. It helps you stay on course. It helps you judge the plot devices and subplots that may occur to you on the way. Do they support the theme?
Sharon Hunt wrote an article for Suite101.com titled Write Clearer Story Themes: Tips to Make Your Short Fiction Easier to Understand. Don’t disregard this if you’re not writing short fiction. There’s some good advice here. For example, she says: “Accurately explaining what your fiction is about can be difficult for a writer, but it is an important tool if you want people to remember your work.”
ezinearticles.com has a post by Joy Cagil called Theme In Fiction: So Different from Nonfiction. The post starts out: “Theme is why fiction matters, because it is the quality that gives the story a universal appeal.” You can see why this is a good article to read, regardless of if you’ve ever had an interest in writing nonfiction.
Carol Whiteley of everything.com wrote an article simply called Themes of Novels. You’ll find some great info about themes here. More importantly, you’ll find some good examples of themes that may make it easier for you to define yours.
Holly Lisle wrote in her very popular blog an article I liked. Finding Your Themes is a post that doesn’t take the themes issue lightly at all. Do take a look at this one, I think you’ll find it worth your while.
You’ll have fun going through your novel and unveiling your theme piece by piece if that’s your style. Perhaps you’ll reveal it in the very beginning and expound on it with every plot device and subplot you create. However you choose to do it, your theme will help you devise your story and delight your reader.