HOW TO FIND THE THEME OF YOUR NEXT FICTION WORK.
So, you are starting a new fiction work, but you don’t know what theme to write in or you might not even know what kinds there are. I’m here to help. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Themes are sometimes hard to pinpoint when you are just getting started in writing fiction. Even professionals have a hard time with it sometimes. Let’s first define what type of story you are writing.
WHAT IS THE MESSAGE YOU ARE TRYING TO IMPOSE ON YOUR READER?
You as the rhetor have an opportunity to be persuasive in your writing, so let’s use that to our advantage. Without being manipulative, what message do you want your readers to get? How do you want your reader to feel after having read your work? Your reader is your most important critic and advocate, so writing with them in mind is ideal. What are you trying to say or change about the world?
WHAT GENRE DO YOU PLAN TO WRITE IN?
There are two kinds of genres that are used in the classification and publication of a work of fiction. The first is called a commercial genre. The commercial genre is what is commonly known as the “sales category”. This genre style is what tells publishers and books stockers what kind of fiction work you are writing. This is typically the global genre that is understood by the reader when they go looking for a new book. Genre examples include Young Adult (Aka YA), Adult, New Adult, Romance, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy.
The second genre is known as content genre. This genre applies to type of story and content that you write. This the genre classified for and by writers about their work. These genres have a niched perspective and maintain similar conventions, scenes, and rules when writing.
Keep in mind, most stories will have both genres. To figure out you theme, first identify what genre(s) you would like to work with.
WHAT KIND OF PLOT ARE YOU WRITING?
The first thing to know when starting a new fiction project is whether you are writing a character or plot driven story. A plot is a series of events surrounding a main theme or story. A plot driven story will drive and effected by an antagonistic force, such as a killer, competitive person, or any other external force. In comparison, a character driven story will drive the plot through internal conflict form the main character(s) via trauma, fear, self-consciousness, etc. You can choose to write one with either or both, but at least one needs to be the primary driving force. More importantly, ask yourself why your reader should care about the plot you are working with.
WHAT POV IS APPROPRIATE?
A point of view or POV is a “a position or perspective from which something is considered or evaluated”. It is the way a story is told from the perspective of the narrator, which can be done with great detail or omniscience distance. The point of view is where a writer points the sight of the reader. Why does point of view matter so much? Because point of view filters everything in your story. Everything in your story must come from a point of view. When you get the POV wrong, it throws off the whole story and makes it harder for the reader to read and comprehend it.
WHAT IS THE CHARCTER ARC?
How does you main character/protagonist change from beginning to end? How does this effect the type of story you are writing? Can their actions change theme and style of your work? Should it?
WHAT ARE THE THEMES OF SOME SIMILAR COMP TITLES?
Sometimes we can model formats and plots based off pervious work in order to gain a sense of the techniques and conventions used in that genre. What are some titles of movies, books, or tv shows that have similar themes to what you want to write? Is it an action, love story, mystery? The action genre is about survival, life and death, good v. evil, and courage. The love genre is about friendship, romance, human connection, and intimacy. The mystery genre is about justice, injustice, safety, and good v. evil. The horror genre is about survival, fear, safety, life and death, and good v. evil. The morality genre is about altruism, selfishness, and right v. wrong. The performance genre is about respect, esteem, and shame. The society genre is about power, revolution, equality, and corruption. The status genre is about success, failure, admiration, and pity. The thriller genre is about survival, life and death, and good v. evil. The world view/coming of age is about wisdom, meaning, and maturity. The western genre is about freedom, right v. wrong, survival, good v. evil, and courage. And finally, the war genre is about honor, safety, courage, and survival.
Note the following: a theme is not concrete. Your theme(s) can change as you write and flesh out your story concept, but you just need to start with one. Write it out in one sentence. You will be surprised how evident the theme can occur to you.
[Exp: How something happens to the character and why does it happen?]
Written by Baleigh Shortreed.
“Patience is the key to growth; growth is the key to change.”