Top 10 Types of Story Themes
Story themes are those succinct, sometimes cliché-sounding lines that sum up the essence of your story. Think of the way you feel after reading a good book or watch a memorable movie. Do you feel uplifted? Galvanized? Did something touch your heart? Why?
Fiction themes can sum up a story and give you the gist of what you're writing. It shouldn't be too obvious when you're writing the story, but those few words can help you when describing the concept to someone else, like an agent.
Let's look at 10 common types of story themes.
1. You Can Always/Never Go Home Again
The two faces of this theme are used equally well in fiction. The need to find a stable place in life can even be the driving force in your plot. These can show change and development for the character, shelter in a storm or the lack of comfort from a once comfortable place in life.
2. Nothing Remains the Same
These themes use time as an unstoppable force, usually when compared to a point in the character's life they saw as ideal. Maybe revisiting a childhood memory has the character discovering the sledding hill isn't as tall anymore. This can show a character's maturity, wistfulness, or discontent in life.
3. Nothing Changes
The lack of any change can also be a theme. A character returning to a hometown to find the same people doing the same things is a theme used since ancient times. This can show complacency, stagnation, lack of character growth, and more.
4. Love Conquers All
One of the easiest to identify. This time-honored theme transcends nearly all genres and has been used with fresh slants that make it a reader favorite. Unconditional love is a global, timeless need.
5. Blood Is Thicker than Water
The ties that bind a family together can be the driving force behind your story. The need to survive as a family unit or forgive past differences and wrongdoings is insanely strong. The many stories with the Prodigal Son theme demonstrate this to readers of all ages.
6. Growing Up/Old Is Inevitable
From King Lear to Dorian Gray to Blanche DuBois, characters have always made poor choices in areas of trust, vanity, and other character issues. The refusal to learn or accept inevitable change can be a challenge for your story's characters.
7. Hero Within
As Bilbo Baggins and Luke Skywalker proved, taking an otherwise small, inconsequential character and forcing them into a situation that draws out their inner strengths is timeless. It doesn't have to be a farm boy; with a little creativity, it can be a war-torn Southern belle or a fifteenth century French peasant girl.
8. Good Versus Evil
This is an age-old theme for a very good reason: It works. Readers recognize it and love it. The hero in the story against hopeless odds is pitted against what seems like an unstoppable or all-powerful nemesis. The need for the hero to rise up and end evil and restore or usher in a balance of happiness and justice is at the core of many stories. This works well for genres such as military, fantasy, science fiction, westerns, and adventure.
9. Sacrifice, Redemption, Acceptance
Soul-searching themes like a character giving up their all for their beliefs or love, seeking to atone for past mistakes, and longing to be included are all strong motivations to propel your character through a plot. Guilt can be an incredible force.
10. World Domination
On the other end of those vanquishers of evil are the enemies of good the evil. While not all adversaries in your novel may be evil in their pursuit of world conquering, most generally are. A twist on this would be an antagonist seeking world domination to make it a better place through force.
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