Story Theme – How to Use It In Fiction

Story theme – a definition

It is good to understand the story theme. A theme in a story is the major idea that the story leans or surrounds. It comments on human experience, and more often a story relates to real life situations. All stories have at least one theme.

A theme gives the general view of the story. It gives the reader the insight into how the story characters live to pursue something good, the results of conflicts and how all these choices come to pass in their lives. In a story, there can be major and minor themes.

  •    A major theme is an idea the writer keeps on repeating in his work, portraying it as the most significant idea.
  •    The minor theme is the idea that appears briefly in the story.

A theme needs to be compelling and captivating. You need to think carefully when choosing a theme for your story.

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How to identify a theme for a story

Identifying a theme in a story can be difficult for most people this is because it isn’t something stated in words but rather it’s something you get to determine on your own while reading the story. The theme of a story is the universal idea that can be deduced by the readers from the narrative and its described by the literary symbols that keep on appearing in course of the narrative.

To identify the theme of a story, you have to read through the story and understand the basics of the characterization, plot and other literary elements that are included in the story. Get to know the main subjects of the story. Get to know what the author’s view on the mentioned subjects is. Make sure not to confuse the subject of the story with its theme.

The subject is the topic acting as the base for the story whereas the theme is the opinion being expressed by the author on the subject.

How to find the themes of a story:

  1. Identify the plot of the story: when reading the story, note down the main literary elements such as the plot, tone, characterization, setting, etc. The plot of the story is the way the story elements are arranged. The setting deals with the environment where the story occurs. The tone is the emotional feeling of the writer expressed in words.
  2. Identify the subject of the story: you should be able to identify the subject of the story, analyse where the writer majors in his or her descriptions.
  3. Know the protagonist, i.e., the main character: knowing and analyzing the protagonist is very important in identifying the theme of a story. Get to identify and list both the physical and non-physical attributes of the protagonist.
  4. Identify the conflict: the main character is always involved in a conflict. As a reader try figuring out what exactly the maincharacteris in conflict with or what specifically they are struggling with. The main character can be in conflict with severally things. They include; conflict between the main character with another character, with the society, it may be a conflict within himself or with the force of nature.
  5. Get to know how the conflict is being resolved: how the conflict is resolved in the story is a way of identifying a theme. Whoever gets out the winner in the conflict is a clue the writer gives the reader on which force is greater and better.
  6. Get a conclusion: study the main character, the conflict he was involved in and its resolution to determine what the theme of the story is. By understanding the lessons learned by the protagonist in the story, the lessons can be generalized and applied to every character in the story. The conclusion usually summaries the main points and through it you can easily identify the theme of the story.

Common theme examples

There are numerous themes found in different books, but there are a few common themes seen in those books. These popular themes are seen among authors and reader as they are experiences which can be related to in day to day life. These themes may be common, but in each story, they may have a deeper meaning.

They include:

  • Love – this is a very common theme in literature, and there are numerous examples of it. Love goes beyond the romance depicted in the story. In some cases, they may be connected to other themes in the story.
  • Peace and war –the paradox between peace and war is common among authors. Characters in the story are often caught in the mayhem of conflict. More often you get the characters hoping for a good life and days of peace. The characters are seen casting their minds back to the days of peace.
  • Good and evil – another popular theme is the existence of good and evil. These themes are often found in cooperation with other themes such as war and love.
  • Suffering – this is another popular theme. In some stories, characters are seen suffering in one way or another. The suffering they are going through can either be physical or internal and are often found alongside other popular themes.
  • Judgment – in a story a character may be judged for one reason or another. They can be judged as being exceptional or can be judged for wrongdoing or their personality. From the story, you can learn that not in all judgments one can get justice.
  • Heroism –in every story there is a heroic act presented by a character. At times it may be false heroism.
  • Survival – when the main character gets to overcome a number of odds against him to get to live another day or get another chance to do something is very interesting. We get to know how the protagonist survives the odd.
  • Deception -the theme on deceptions can take many forms depending on what the writer is focusing on. Deception can be physical, social or keeping secrets from someone.
  • Coming of age-growing up and getting old is a privilege that’s why most authors focus on coming of age. Through the events of the story, we see children grow up to adults, learning life skills and valuable lessons.

Importance of a theme in a story

Getting to know the theme of a story is very important. This is because a theme gives a story life. The theme can be called the backbone and the essence of the story. The theme is usually connected to the main character’s internal journey. If the reader fails to get the plot of the story, they lose interest. Thus it is very important to know the theme of a story. The importance of theme in a story includes:

  • A theme gives a story meaning and hence creating an emotional impact. A theme creates a difference between a great story that readers can relate to and a mediocre one. The theme adds an in-depth and creates a connection to the story. It is necessary for an author to have a good and clear understanding of the theme has this is the key to crafting great and awesome stories that readers will love.
  • A theme helps readers to understand the story. Reading makes the reader understand several aspects of life. All humans whether old or young seek the meaning of life. If your story has a light theme or the theme doesn’t resonate, it tends to leave your readers unsatisfied.
  • Theme creates a focused story. Theme acts as a guide to a story. It guides the storyline hence prevents the writer from veering off the main idea and hence helps the story not to lose its focus.
  • Theme is curative too!! Yes, the theme is curative; this is because the writer gets to express what they feel inside, whether good or bad. As the writer expresses themselves, they get to analyze their feelings and probably come into terms with them. Writing will not only be curative for you as a writer, but also it will help cure your readers who have experienced the same.

Theme examples

For you to be proficient in identification of story themes you will need to read more literature such as novels, articles, journals and even newspapers. Most of these pieces are set in a way that the theme is printed in bold at the beginning.

So, when it comes to such just read the topic and try to digest what it could be meaning then proceed to the body and see how the writer relates the theme with different incidence in the story. Another advantage of reading through different pieces of literature is that you get ideas of different themes that you can use in your writing. Reading examples really helps a lot in making you creative and decisive when it comes to choosing of story themes.

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