Genre & Theme
3 min read

3 questions to help you figure out your theme

An image of the interior of a library reading room

Hello, fellow creators of worlds and weavers of words! Welcome back to our series on the deceptively tricky topic of themes in storytelling. This article gives three thought-provoking questions to help you identify your story's theme. It's a bit like a treasure hunt, but don't worry; we're providing the map.

1. What is your protagonist's journey?

The first question to ask yourself is about your protagonist's journey. Where do they start, where do they end, and what changes in between? The theme is often closely tied to the protagonist's transformation.

Think of it as the protagonist's 'aha!' moment. For example, if your protagonist starts as a selfish character and ends up learning the value of sacrifice, your theme might be 'true love requires sacrifice'.

💡 Read more about establishing your protagonist.

2. What are the recurring conflicts?

The second question to ask yourself is about the conflicts in your story. Are there recurring issues or obstacles that your characters face? These repeated conflicts often point towards the theme.

If your characters are constantly grappling with trust issues, your theme might be 'trust is hard to earn but easy to lose'. These conflicts help shape the narrative and guide your characters' growth; in the process, they reveal the underlying theme.

💡 Read more about conflict and tension in fiction writing with one of these articles: A short guide to writing stories where the inner conflict is status, A short guide to writing stories where the inner conflict is worldview, A short guide to writing stories where the inner conflict is morality.

3. What lessons are learned?

The final question is about the lessons learned by your characters. By the end of your story, what have your characters, and by extension, your readers, learned? The theme often reflects this newfound wisdom or understanding.

If, in the end, your characters learn that freedom comes with responsibility, your theme could be 'freedom isn't free'. These lessons are the nuggets of truth that readers take away from your story, making them essential to identifying your theme.

The end of the chapter – but not the story

Like a compass guiding you through the wilderness of words and ideas, these three questions can guide you towards your story's theme, helping you uncover the heart of your narrative.

Remember, figuring out your theme is more than finding the 'right' answer. It's about understanding your story deeper and conveying that understanding to your readers.

So, take a deep breath, dive into the murky depths of your narrative, and emerge with the golden treasure of your theme. Until next time, keep those pens flowing and those ideas glowing!