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Big Bold List of 52 Themes – How to Identify Your Theme

 

Number 5

Welcome to week number 5 of the

52 Weeks of 52 Kick Ass Writing Tools

Nina’s Problem:

Nina received feedback from the first draft of her screenplay.   The feedback went something like this…

“It kind of wandered.”

“It seemed like it lacked focus.”

“First it seemed like it was about one thing, but then it seemed like it was about something else.  I didn’t get it.”

Nina came to me ready to rip the whole thing up.  She’d spent two years on that damn thing and now she felt like maybe she had re-written it so many times that her story had ridden off the rails.

She asked me what I thought was wrong.  “It’s the theme, darlin’.  It’s the Theme.”

 Roller CoasterKnowing your theme can keep your story on its tracks.

Creating the strongest theme Possible

Q:  What is a theme?

A:  The message of your story.   It’s truly what you, the writer, want to say to your audience.  Themes are important because they travel throughout the story and act as a unifying force (think roller coaster or train tracks).

To start brainstorming what you theme may be – ask yourself:

Why do you want to tell this story?  Why is it important for you?  For others?

A soggy story is often a story that has two or more competing themes.  Pick the one that covers your overall reason for writing your piece.

Sometimes writers struggle with having to know why they are writing what they are writing.  And it’s true you can write your first draft – then look back on the piece and reflect on its message.  But the chances are the story will require a re-write to make sure you have a strong theme that travels from beginning to end.

Bottom line:  Knowing your theme will help you craft a more cohesive story.

If you don’t know your theme you can uncover it by answering the following questions:

  • Ending 
  • Reason 
  • Ending Message  
  • Lesson

Finding Your Theme Questions

The ending of my story is:______________________________________

The reason for this ending is:____________________________________

The message you can take away from the story is:______________________

The lesson my character learns is:_________________________________

Okay, back to Nina.

Nina’s Story:  An American mother and her nineteen year old daughter get kidnapped in a foreign country.  They unwittingly lead a failed prison riot and must decide what they are willing to do to secure their freedom.

How Nina answered the Finding Your Theme Questions

The ending of my story is:  Mother and daughter decide to make a run from the prison camp.  They know they might die.  They run anyway.

The reason for this ending is: The heart of the story is about the love of mother and daughter.

The message you can take away from the story is:

Initially Nina had a few answers to this question.  She had to select the one she most wanted to focus on.  Here are the four she had to choose from.

  1. Freedom is everything.
  2. Family is everything.
  3. The present moment is all we have.
  4. There is power in numbers.

The reason Nina’s story went all over the place was because sometimes she was focusing on one theme – and sometimes another.  When she selected the theme “Family is Everything” – her story became much more clear.  She went back to her outline and made sure that every major plot point now related back to this theme – to mother and daughter – to healing their relationship, to knowing above all else that they are family, to committing to that love.  After she knew this theme – she was ready to answer the final question.

The lesson my character learns is:  There is nothing more important in the world than your family. (Family is everything.)

Knowing this was her overall message placed the story firmly on its tracks and kept it from wandering off.  After a re-write with her new theme in place, Nina received quite a bit of praise.

 

If you are still a little unclear or feel you need some assistance, check out these possible themes to choose from (yes, I’m sure there are a lot more):

 

Clear Path

THE BIG BOLD LIST OF 52 THEMES

1) Love is stronger than death

2) If you live by the sword – you die by the sword

3) Meaning in life can be found by the circle of life

4) You have to believe in yourself to achieve anything real

5) Trust your own voice – it is stronger than you think

6) Jealousy is a destructive force

7) When men band together they can defeat anything

8) Absolute power corrupts absolutely

9) You have to let go of the shore to reach any new land

10) Crime doesn’t pay

11) War is hell

12) Technology is robbing people of their humanity

13) You have more courage than you may think you have

14) You always know what you need to do to solve your life’s issues, trusting yourself is the real issue

15) Believe in your individual voice

16) Don’t let the light go out in your eyes

17) One brave step, leads to many

18) There is life after loss

19) You have to be your own hero

20) Not all heroes are heroic

21) Sometimes you have to escape the life you have to realize it really was the life you wanted

22) Death is a mystery

23) With death there is an opportunity to be reborn

24) There is an opportunity in every crisis

25) Most journeys lead back home

26) There is a moment in everyone’s life when they come of age

27) Being a patriot means you can question your leaders

28) Hope springs eternal

29) You never know anyone – not really

30) Lust for power will bring a man to his knees

31) Everyone leaves this earth alone

32) Justice is not blind

33) Having it all isn’t all its cracked up to be

34) Family is more important than anything

35) Having faith is a leap

36) Every man struggles with good and evil within

37) Families in today’s world are disintegrating

38) Man is small against mother nature

39) Secrets never remain secrets

40) Total conformity goes against man’s needs to express his/her voice

41) Learned Racism is toxic

42) Suffering is part of the human experience

43) We all lose our innocence

44) You are never too old to reach your dreams

45) The present moment is all we have

46) Freedom is everything

47) Family is everything

48) What comes around goes around

49) Violence begets more violence

50)  There is no fate/only freewill

51) Is Artificial Intelligence truly intelligence

52) Is religion honorable or hypocrisy

EXAMPLES OF THEMES:

The Wizard of Oz:
You have the power inside you to grant your deepest wishes – if only you would believe in yourself.

Checkov’s The Seagull:
Humans have the odd (and maybe destructive) tendency to reject love that is freely given yet seek it where it is withheld.

Romeo and Juliet:
The Battle of love and hate. Love has the overwhelming power to teach us how to step beyond our boundaries and limitations. If one lets hate rule – everyone loses.

 

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