Why Should I Care About My Book’s Theme?
When thinking about the important parts of your book, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t rank theme up there with plot, characters, worldbuilding, conflict, genre, or basically anything else.
Honestly, theme can’t be that important, right?
Aggressive, bolded answers behind us, you probably had some inkling that your book’s theme was important. That’s why you’re here, right?
If you want your book to be more than just another story, to be the one that sticks in your reader’s mind for weeks and months when they’re finished, you want to focus on perfecting your theme game.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. In this article, we will discuss:
- What themes are
- Why themes are important
Let’s get deep.
A Quick Definition of Theme
First things first, let’s establish a quick definition of theme. It’s tough to explain why something is important if we don’t know what it is, right?
Theme is the human truth or social message you are trying to get across within your story.
While themes are never explicitly stated by the author, the purpose of storytelling (beyond entertaining) is to share a message.
Now, when I say universal truth, that’s something you believe to be true. It doesn’t have to be objectively true. In fact, it’s almost like you’re using your story to prove your theme.
Take a theme like love conquers all, for example.
In the real world, you can probably list off a handful of times when love did not conquer all. You can likely even give an example of stories that show love can’t conquer all (Romeo & Juliet, for example).
But if you want to share some inspiration with the world and make them believe that love can conquer all, then it’s on your story to do so.
If you have a great theme idea and want some help fleshing it out, click here to learn how to write a theme. Otherwise, we’re moving on to the why behind themes.
Why is Theme Important?
Maybe the brief definition above helped you understand why theme is important. But, if it didn’t, I don’t blame you… and I’ve got some more info coming your way.
When it comes to why you should integrate theme into your stories, there are three big reasons to keep in mind:
- Theme gives your story meaning
- Theme drives an emotional connection with your readers
- A book with a great theme gets recommended more
Don’t worry, friends. We’re going to look at all three of those details a little further, just in case you’re still on the fence about theme.
A Theme Gives Your Story Meaning
If I might be a little snarky (and I checked, I can), a story without a theme isn’t a story. It’s a retelling.
Even if the thing you are retelling is fictional and thus never actually happened, all you’re doing is sharing a series of events.
If you’re telling a story, you’re retelling with purpose.
Think back to human beings thousands of years ago, even before writing was a thing. Storytelling was a method of passing information and lessons to one another. It was a way of sharing a message.
Admittedly, those messages might have been more about life-or-death matters and less about “love conquers all,” but the point remains.
These days, us authors have inherited the role of storytellers. We have more flexibility in the tales we share; storytelling is more about entertainment than the continuation of the species. But that doesn’t mean we don’t crave meaning behind the stories we read.
That’s some deep stuff, right? But it’s all true. You, my author friend, are continuing a tradition that is tens of thousands of years old. That’s really cool.
Flipping it around, that means readers crave meaning behind the stories they consume. Sure, we all have moments where we just want to become one with the couch, devour an entire bag of chips or tub of ice cream, and watch a mindless Netflix original.
I won’t apologize for that, and neither should you.
But how awful would it be if every book you read, movie you watched, or video game you played was just a series of meaningless events? Even for die-hard action fans, that would become tedious very quickly.
Theme Drives Emotional Connection With Your Readers
There’s nothing more admirable than when a book and its author emotionally connects with a reader. Once you’ve established that connection, you have this weird power over them. You can make them happy, sad, terrified, furious, or any other emotion you can think of.
There are a couple ways you can do that. Creating complex characters with fantastic character arcs is one way. Choosing the right POV is another.
But writing a theme they relate to is a surefire way of tying their heartstrings into the fabric of your story.
Even if the reader never consciously acknowledges your theme, your story’s message can create that connection. If your reader loves reading about good triumphing over evil, then they’ll connect better with a book themed around that narrative.
Likewise, if a reader has experienced how a great friend can be a literal life saver, they’ll immediately connect with a story that has a theme about the power of friendship.
Don’t underestimate how much a strong emotional connection can do for your book. It will elevate it from just another story to an all-time favorite.
A Book With a Great Theme Will Be Recommended More
Hitting them in the feels is one thing, but you also want more people to read your book, right? It doesn’t matter if your goal as an author is just to write a book worth reading or to make a living through your writing; we’re all happier when more people read our work.
Sure, your really cool fight scene or your steamy love scenes will get some folks chatting. Maybe you’ll get an extra couple sales or pages read on Kindle Unlimited.
But if you want your readers to sing your praises and proactively push your book, the best way to do it is by crafting a memorable theme.
If you can really hit the nail on the head with your message and share something that resonates with your readers, it will have a much more profound impact than just another retelling.
And the more impact you have, the closer you will be to becoming a full-time author. If that’s your goal.
What Will Your Theme Be?
If you came into this article not believing theme is the sexiest part of writing, I won’t hold it against you. Theme is subtle, it weaves through your words and trickles into your reader’s mind. It’s not flashy or in your face.
But I hope you’ve realized just how important your theme is and how powerful of a writing tool it can be.
I won’t sugar coat it: writing a good theme takes a decent amount of work. It’s easy to stumble and show the world that your theme is half-baked. And, unlike cookies and brownies, no one likes a theme that’s still raw in the middle.
That’s where Dabble comes in.
With tools like in-line comments, sticky notes, and the versatile Plot Grid, keeping track of where and how you drip-feed your themes is easier than ever.
By adding a Plot Line for each theme, you can check at a glance to see where you’ve included theme-relevant events. Too much and your book will be preachy. Too little and your readers won’t get the message.
Setting up a Plot Line also attaches a Note Card to scenes where you want the theme, putting it right next to your manuscript for one-click access to any notes you think are relevant.
Honestly, does it get better than that?
No, it doesn't. And it can all be yours with a free fourteen-day trial, no credit card required, by clicking here.
So go forth and write a story with a theme that will capture hearts and enthrall readers. You got this.
TAKE A BREAK FROM WRITING...
Read. Learn. Create.
While the terms "story" and "plot" are often used interchangeably, they are actually two distinct elements of narrative, and understanding the difference can be a useful tool in your storytelling arsenal. You’re going to need some of both to create a compelling book that’ll have your readers coming back for more.
Editing. That tricky little step between drafting and publishing. Okay, maybe it’s not so little. Actually, it’s kind of important. I’ll even go out on a limb and say it’s actually the most important part. And the limb is very short. But where do you start? You’ve got all these words and now you have to take your messy first draft and make them actually readable. You know editing’s a thing, but you’ve probably heard there is more than one kind of editing. One of the most comprehensive is known as content or development editing. This is often the first kind of editing any book sees and, for new writers, can be a valuable step in honing their craft.
We tend to give a lot of thought to our characters when we’re writing. Their likes and dislikes. Their appearance and disposition. Hopefully their wants, goals, motivations, flaws and all the things that make them feel like real people. But how much thought do you give to actually introducing them to your readers? A strong introduction to a character can help make or break that character and the way your reader perceives them. So what’s in an introduction, anyway?