The theme of a story is what the story is about. It is the underlying message usually defined in one or two sentences and is never told to the readers. Sometimes you know your story’s theme before beginning to write it. Sometimes you don’t know the theme until you have the outline done, characters in place and the setting down to the smallest detail. More than not it is implied coming through in the use of characterization, plot, setting, view point and events in the overall writing of the story.
A novel can have many themes because of the length, the amount of characters and subplots that run through it. In Charles Dickens‘ , A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s kind and even tempered nephew, Fred’s good-humor can not be dampened, not even by Scrooge. Fred’s theme could be, happy are those who are sure of themselves. While Bob Cratchit’s, the faithful clerk’s theme might be; do what is right, be respectful and expect good to come from it. Scrooge on the other hand has a very different outlook. His theme might be one of the following, Greed and money can make you blind to the lives of others around you, or, if you are not careful and change your miserable life before it is too late you might end up haunting the earth like Jacob Marley!
Where novels can have many themes, short stories and some children’s books usually have only one theme. Themes for children can come from your own childhood experiences. All of childhood’s momentary problems seem monumental at the time. A story about a girl who sleeps with a night light on for fear of dark, menacing shadows is invited to stay overnight at her friend’s house. The girl now has to worry that her friend will think she is still a baby if her fear of the dark is known. All turns out well when she finds that her self-assured friend also has a fear of the dark and they sleep with a comforting light on. This theme could be that everyone has something they fear, or sometimes your fears are groundless.
Theme usually expresses the author’s opinion, questions human nature and holds the story together while keeping the author on track to the final destination, the story’s end. It adds relevance and helps the author separate from the plot what is needed and what is not.
Readers can find a story’s theme by looking at the title and in patterns that run through the story. It will show in what the main character or characters find out about themselves. The characters must find meaning for who they are, what they do and what they want to be. The struggle the characters face in the opening of the story should be tied up by the ending of the story, and your theme clear to your readers.
Places to find themes
Themes are found in the human experiences: feelings, love, hatred, fear, confusion, desires, etc.
Themes can be found in questions needing answers such as:
Why do some people died young?
Why is there evil in the world?
Why do we love others?
They can be found in bible verse like proverbs and psalms.
They can be found in old familiar sayings and truisms like;
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Don’t cry over spilt milk.
It’s always darkest before the dawn.
And let’s not forget, on rare occasions in Chinese fortune cookies!
That’s THEME IN A NUTSHELL!