Find your Theme


This is part of a series, 30 Days to A Stronger Novel

The take-away, or the theme of a story, seems like a mysterious thing sometimes. I usually don’t worry much about this in the first draft of a novel, but it’s good to consciously address it in a revision.

Unfortunately, the problem with theme is that it can be stated in various ways. For example, in my current WIP, here are some ways you might state the theme:

  • J. rejects Dad’s idea that hard work will pay off in the end; instead, he decides to run because he likes to run, not because of a pay off in competition.
  • Hard work doesn’t lead to wins.
  • Please yourself first; then enter a competition.
  • How to work hard and yet lose gracefully.
  • Work hard because you love the sport, not because you love to win.

Just trying to clearly and effectively state the theme for yourself is hard! I think the place to look for the theme is in the internal conflict of the main character.   What is s/he struggling to understand?  How does s/he change over the course of the story?  If you took a scene from the beginning and one from the end, what differences define the character at the end?

Once you clearly state the theme, there’s several things to look at, which we’ll talk about the next couple days.

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