Writing Exercise: Exploring Themes

Last time, we looked at themes and how they can be incorporated into your writing.  Themes help enhance the story and its characters and can add layers of meaning to your story.

Exploring Themes

Take some time to watch your favorite movie or a TV episode and write down all the possible themes that pop out at you.

•          What themes are obvious?

•          What themes are subtler?

•          What themes are in opposition to one another?

•          How do the story’s themes enhance the story or characters?

•          Are these themes you have seen many times before in other films and TV shows?

Do this with as many films or shows as you wish.  You may find thematic patterns in genres as you explore.

Recycling Themes

Using those themes, think about how you could reuse some or all of them in a short story.  

•          Can they be presented differently?  

•          Are there ways to use those themes that give them more impact and meaning?  

•          What if you made an obvious theme subtle and a subtle theme obvious?

Write a 500-word story that uses these themes to enhance what’s happening.

Your Work

Are you working on a manuscript, a screenplay, or a play?  Read through what you have and find the themes within your own work.  

•          Are they obvious or subtle?

•          Do the themes provide greater meaning to the characters or story?

•          Do you have opposing themes that enhance conflict?

•          Are there ways to refine and fine-tune the themes for greater impact?

The theme is an essential element in your story.  Take the time to develop and enhance your themes and take your story to the next level.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

Writing Tip of the Week: Let’s Talk About Theme (The Basics)

What’s the theme of your story? Does your story have more than one theme? What exactly is a theme, anyway? From theme weeks to theme parks to theme songs, the word is all around us, and yet what does it mean when it comes to a story?

Theme Defined

Regarding creative writing, a “theme is the main idea or underlying meaning a writer explores in a novel, short story, or other literary work.1” The theme is interwoven throughout the story. It is presented in various subtle and subtextual ways that give the story deeper resonance.

Theme or Topic?

Themes exist more implicitly, while a topic is more explicit. For example, suppose you are writing a story about poverty in America. In that case, the topic of the story is poverty. At the same time, you may present subtler themes of greed, oppression, or class throughout the narrative.  

Warring Themes

One of the classic themes is good versus evil, and it’s been used for millennia in morality tales, comedies, tragedies, literature, TV, and film. Pitting two themes against each other also allows you to showcase elements of character in your protagonist and antagonist in a way that shows their motivations and opposition toward the other thematic element. 

Emerging Themes 

As a writer, you know what story you wish to tell, but maybe you are unsure exactly what themes are being presented in your work from the start. Fear not. As you write and develop the story and characters, various themes will pop out to you. Sometimes they will emerge in your writing subconsciously. Once you have discovered them, you can fine-tune and polish those themes to heighten their importance.

Sledgehammer Subtle

Don’t beat the reader over the head with your themes. Weave them in throughout the work and allow the reader to discover and interpret the meaning they want. If you try too hard, your story may become preachy and read more like a morality tale. Again, take the time – whether you have planned out your themes in the early stages or not –to work them in without directly shining a spotlight onto them.

Final Thoughts

This is a basic overview of a theme as it relates to fiction. If you want to explore further, I highly recommend the article where I found the initial definition. Click the LINK for more.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!


MasterClass Article on Literary Theme

Writer’s Workshop Wednesday: Neil Gaiman

With an impressive and extensive body of work covering novels, film, TV, comics, poetry, and theater, Neil Gaiman is as talented as he is prolific. Some of his notable works include the novel and TV series American Gods, the film Coraline, and his comic book series, Lucifer, which inspired the Fox/Netflix series of the same name. His comic book series, Sandman, is currently being adapted to the small screen.

Check out Gaiman’s dozens of other works here: https://www.neilgaiman.com/works/

Not only is Gaiman a fantastic wordsmith, but he also is an inspiring teacher when it comes to educating others about creativity and the writing process. His series of classes on MasterClass are highly recommended and one that I have viewed several times.

Check out the trailer for his MasterClass series below, along with some interviews he’s done over the years.


Check back next week for another great author!