Choosing Your Themes


When you find your basic idea, then develop it into a tree of ideas, all intertwining into a possible masterpiece, you need to apply some more context to it.

One thing any piece of art needs to have, and we could examine through history, is a theme. Without a true, meaningful theme, a book is just a pile of words printed and read. You noticed it as well, the ones that stick to you have a deeper theme that resonates with readers, and it doesn’t need to be obvious, on contrary, your themes should be hidden, only ever emerging when they serve a part in your plot.


Think Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, amazingly interesting plot, developed character, with deep themes implanted in your memory, so when there’s a talk about faith American Gods come to mind. But go further, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is about right and wrong, and it always pops to mind when there is morality in question.

Themes are the roots of your story. They are always simple to choose but very hard to analyse. They are the founding stone of your story, from them the actions, events and characters will rise naturally.

Think of Louis Ferdinand Celine’s Journey At The End Of The Night and Ferdinand, the antihero acts selfishly, even immorally to achieve his goals, but never achieves them since he is trapped in his skin, bursting with hatred, blaming everyone and everything for his own troubles.

Now that is something readers remember. Celine wrote it in the first person voice, making it incredibly easy for audience to relate with his description of all the evil in the world, not letting an individual be what they see themselves to be.


You plant your theme, layer your story with it. Never miss an opportunity of bringing it to question, proving your theme to be right times and times again.

You might choose dealing with loss as your theme, and write a story for children about a boy who adopted a sick sparrow, then was warned that the sparrow was very ill, then during the next couple of days he tended to the sparrow and the bird got better but was stuck in an apartment and the boy had to let it go. Now, the theme is obvious and present, it is in every aspect of the whole story, and the boy learns a lesson – I know, it’s a true story (exciting life of mine).

Keep writing!

Author: Mladen Reljanović

Mladen Reljanović is the founder and lead writer at Writer to Writers. He is the author of Oaktown stories, senior student of communication and a pianist.

7 thoughts on “Choosing Your Themes

    1. Well that’s a nice name for a female character, really. In the case in my post it’s a surname so you don’t have to worry 😀

What are your thoughts on this?