Coming Up With Story Themes

I feel like this should be a quick segment, but, as with anything, I might be a bit long in explaining the point. Regardless, I will do the best I can to get to the heart and eliminate the fluff as we go into story themes.

Alright, here we go!

Themes are best when you can state them in three words or less. They are the essence of your story, the idea, or premise your story revolves around. Take Dragonball Z for example, the theme for this show is progression through struggle. Why is that the theme, because as Goku and Vegeta have ascended to new heights in their power, they’ve had to go through some major enemy or hardship to get that power. Simple enough? Great, I must be doing my job.

So, how to come up with a theme? A couple of ways: write your story and figure it out later; learn a lesson from a book, movie, video, and then make that the theme of your next story; take a theme from a book you like then craft your own story from that, etc.

The thing about themes is that, you don’t really put a conscious effort into them, they just come to you as you go with the character on their journey and learn the major lessons they learn. A goo theme should teach you something about your own life and human existence in general, without being preachy.

Examples: progression through struggle, power costs everything, success leads to failure, death is good, etc.

I know one of those is four words, but semantics are irrelevant. The point is, the more concise it is, the easier it is to implement throughout a story. The theme of power cost everything boils down to this: the more power you gain, the more you lose of everything else in life (friends, family, etc.). You can implement that with almost no effort because its so easy to remember, and when you’re editing your story, you can make sure everything coincides with this theme.

Longer themes are harder to implement because they have more variables and parts to them, and, a story is best when there is one consistent theme throughout. There can be sub-themes, but those have to coincide with the larger theme as a whole, maintaining the integrity of your story.

I’d give you an example of a long theme, but, I think you get the idea: Your story should have a concise theme and not a paragraph for a theme.

Got it? Good!

Alright, that’s my spiel. Til next week. . .

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