How do you theme your story

posted in: Creation, Writing | 0

I frequent the web a good bit, and sometimes I can’t help but engage in conversations.  Some of my surfing takes me to writing sites and electronic water holes where would-be authors show up.  Every now and again they ask something that I chime in on.

This post is a copy of something I threw up in response to someone who wondered if it was necessary to have the theme of a story in place before beginning to write.

Theme comes from story.

If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t get there efficiently. I don’t care how much of a “but I’m a discovery writer and only write in the dark so I’m enjoying finding out as I go” one is, if there’s no concept of the end point of the characters and their journey, getting there successfully is little more than luck.

Without having a grasp on the end state, it is luck whether or not the scenes throughout the story prior to reaching the climax and wrap up can build properly to that end.

  • How can a “washed up ex-pro coach learn to love the game again teaching a PeeWee league team” pay off if there’s not scenes where he meets with old friends who used to play with/for him where they remark how unhappy he used to seem and how happier he seems now, or the ones where he treats the kids like he did the pro athletes he hated so much and realizes he’s being an asshole who needs to relax, etc…
  • How can the “opposites attract” romantic arc pay off if we don’t establish both halves of the pairing, spell out how clearly different they are, and then make it obvious that even though he’s a stay home guy who likes to read and she’s a go out girl who wants to party, they still compliment and enrich one another. Etc…

One can select a theme and build a story around it, but I think most (especially newer) writers will find it much easier to build a successful story from beginning to end, then identify a theme that fits into it, and then tweak scenes and things in the story to bolster that theme.


My latest novel, Grift Girl Gone, launches on 11-April.  Fans of con artists and caper crimes might find it interesting.  Have a look.