What Writers Need to Know About Plot and Theme

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A well-written book in any genre will have something going on under the surface.

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Let's take a look at a random sample of popular novels and their primary theme. Her husband becomes the prime suspect, and in her absence, she becomes a media sensation. Story: George and Lennie eke out a living as migrant workers in the Great Depression. George, while protecting his friend, also seems to exploit him.

Story Theme – How to Use It In Fiction

Story: Through a series of confessional letters, a woman deals with the aftermath of mass killing committed by her teenage son. Story: A professor hunts for the truth of the Holy Grail and finds himself at odds with the Catholic Church. Naturally, many of these books will deal with more than just one theme, but notice how certain subjects seem to pop up again and again power, obsession. This is not a coincidence. Just as there are countless books that deal with love and death, there are as many ways to flip these concepts over on their sides.

You could write about love for decades and never run out of unique perspectives: Is love a transformative power? Can a person really love more than one person? Is our concept of love determined by our specific culture? And so on….

Story Theme Definition, How to Identify a Story’s Theme

Authors spend entire careers chiseling away at a single notion. Wherever an author finds fertile ground, they can continue to plant their crops. And it goes without saying that books often have multiple themes — opening up infinite opportunities for combining and contrasting ideas. Every author should want their novel to be about something, but how do you actually go about applying this to your book? Many books start from a kernel of an idea.

At this stage, the author has only the slightest idea of a plot, but they already know what they want to say about a certain subject. It proposes that the social woes of the late 80s Britain can be attributed to the feckless upper classes. To create a single target for all his thematic strands, he creates the Winshaw family, a dynasty of influential men and women. Between them, they represent how the banking sector, the arts, farming, health care, and the news media have been corrupted by greed to the detriment of society.


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You can almost imagine Coe creating characters and storylines as a way to examine each point in his thesis. One way you can do the same is by mind-mapping: start with your core idea and come up with all the ways in which characters might be affected by your theme. If you want to write about loneliness, you might think of a scenario where a woman moves to a busy city yet feels more isolated than ever — or a child at school who becomes gradually detached from his classmates. You might think of small snippets of dialogue, or abstract images, or pieces of music that could potentially inspire other plot lines and characters.

All of these things will go onto your mind map. If you'd like to learn more about planning a book or if you want to grab a free mapping template , go this way for our post on how to outline a novel. You can always start by writing a story and then seeing what concepts arise.

Plots and Stories

You might have a great story about a man who falls in love with the girl next door. Whichever approach you choose, you need to find out what you want your novel to achieve in relation to your theme. Your decision here will determine how subtle you must be in plotting your thematic points. Sign up for this free part course! You can choose not to seek a theme, but writers are human and we instinctively work towards patterns. How do you approach themes when writing fiction? Or are themes not necessary to all forms of fiction? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Succinct and accurate. You put these ideas theme, story, plot into perspective for me.

What makes a plot

I wonder how you'd look at character his or her motivations, reactions, dialogue and how the idea of character is spread across these aspects of the novel. Thanks -- theme is rarely spoken of. I'd only like to add a word of warning about starting a story with theme. The stories usually suck. Villains must be three-dimensional too.


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Yes, even bad guys need a soft side, a weak spot, maybe even a modicum of generosity. And their evil has to have some genuine motivation. No one is simply mean for no reason.

Fiction Writing Basics 2

As novelists, you and I have one job: to invent a story for readers that delivers a satisfying experience. Readers love to be educated and entertained, but they never forget what moves them.


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Share Pin Great page-turning stories live or die by their plots. Need help writing your novel? So What Is the Plot of a Story? A successful story answers two questions: 1.

W hat happens? What does it mean? What happens is your Plot. What it means is your Theme. Can Brady Darby be forgiven for the ultimate mortal sin? Digging Deeper: 7 Plot Types While stories seem limitless, most plots fall into these categories: 1.

Is It Important For A Writer To Know A Story’s Theme Before Writing? by Karl Iglesias

Plot Development Secrets Ask yourself two questions: Is your story idea weighty enough to warrant 75, to , words, and Is it powerful enough to hold the reader to the end? Plunge your main character into terrible trouble as soon as possible. Just remember, this trouble must bear stakes high enough to carry the entire novel. Everything your character does to try to get out of that trouble makes it only worse… Avoid the temptation to make life easy for your protagonist. Finally, your hero learns to succeed against all odds. Beware These Deadly Plot Killers Beginning with chapter one, page one, your singular mission is to make every word count.

One final piece of advice: avoid main characters who can do no wrong. Adding dimension to your characters gives dimension to your plot. Unlock Your True Writing Potential. Take this free assessment now and learn to unlock your true potential:. Take The Free Writing Assessment. Before you go Be sure to grab my FREE guide to writing a novel. Send Me The Guide!

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