Themes for Novels

world2You wrote a novel! Yeah! Now you have to pitch your fab story to an agent and/or write the dreaded query. In addition to crafting the one-line “elevator” pitch, it is also important to convey the essence or theme of your story.

A theme is the recurring focus or topic evident in your novel or short story. Themes are the basic, central, integral, and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. Most novels have several themes.

Quick story: Me, at a conference, making writer small talk.
Me: What’s the theme of your novel? 
Man: It’s a murder mystery.
Me: That’s a genre. What’s the theme…um… what’s the story about?
Man: Love
Me: Love is a subject, not a theme. What point are you making about love?
Man: Everybody needs love.
Me: That’s a statement. The importance of love would be a theme.
Man: What’s your point?
Me: it might help to know the theme before you pitch the agents.
Man: Whatever, lady.

Theme is not explained in ONE WORD. Revenge. Loss. Betrayal. Atonement—those are subjects—and a  good place to start.

Themes straddle the line between specificity and vagueness. Fun, right?

Below is a theme primer. It’s a list of abstract concepts designed to help articulate theme. This  is not a conclusive list, merely a springboard of concepts and topics to get you started.

theme

A few examples from literature.
Brave New World: The incompatibility of happiness and truth
Fahrenheit 451: Consequences of an entertainment-driven society
Huck Finn: Hypocrisy of civilized society
The Great Gatsby:  Moral depravity of upper class
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The folly of young love

 

Here’s a few themes from my own novels:

The Merkabah Series:
  •  Mysteries of a multi-dimensional universe
  • Commonalities behind ancient mythologies
  • Struggles of conquering one’s fears
and from The Emperor’s Assassin:
  • importance of friendship
  • the consequences of dangerous knowledge
  • the cost of freedom

Have fun writing your theme!

Related Links:  Rock Your Writing;

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