Theme: Making a Statement about Humanity


Theme: the hero’s moral choice.

What theme is

Theme tells us what it means to be human. It makes a statement about how humans react to situations beyond their control. It shows the writer‘s personal take on how an element of human nature (love, greed, etc) defines human behaviour. The centre theme is often made solid by a moral choice he must make (usually) at the end of the story. The choice must have something at stake that makes it hard to choose. For example, choosing between two rewards or choosing between two punishments.

Theme makes a story universal

The universal element in any story is the emotion or truth in it, that resonates in us all. This allows us to experience people who are completely different than we are, in completely different worlds and situations. This magic only occurs when the theme is made specific.

The statement it makes

The point it makes must be specific, it will serve as a gauge to measure all character responses to situations. Theme is your view of how to act proper in the world. It’s not a concept such as “Racism”. It’s a specific statement made by the author. For example, a mother should sacrifice her life for her child. The statement it makes affects how the protagonist resolves the story question as it determines the kind of resistance the protagonist will face along the way. The statement forms the skeleton on which the story is sculptured.

Forming the statement

  • What do you want the reader to think about after reading the story?
  • What point do you want your story to make?
  • In what way do you want to change the way the reader sees the world?

Showing theme

Subtext creates texture that links scenes to the themes and larger plot. Symbols & Imagery. While plot refers to the events and information dropped into the narrative, theme is the overall message or larger idea. Thematic imagery are the images and symbols that bring forth the theme. Mood and tone can also give an impression of them. While tone belongs to the author, mood belongs to the reader. Mood is the underlying sense of what’s possible and what isn’t within the story. Theme begets the story’s tone, which begets the mood. The story should show the theme, not the other way around.

Cron, L. (2012) Wired for story: the writer’s guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence.