How to Use Themes
In order to use theme,
- Think of a compelling, interesting, or confusing idea.
- Apply that idea (the theme) to a story.
For example, consider the theme of identity. You are interested in exploring
- the importance of personal identity
- the development of that identity
- how that identity can be challenged
Theme 1: Identity
Story: A woman begins having memory issues and finds she has early-onset Alzheimer’s. As she begins losing her memory, she fights to maintain her sense of identity through memory-training exercises, examining photo albums, and talking with her family.
This story would examine how complicated this woman’s identity is and how linked it is to those around her, highlighting other themes like family and love.
For a second example, consider the idea of heroism.
Theme 2: Heroism
Story: A man spends his entire life being viewed as a hero, as he is a fantastic firefighter who risks his life daily for others. The story is complicated, though, when he is married, has a son, and has to begin spending less time on work and more time being a hero to his son.
This story would examine the different ways in which one can be or become a hero to others.
As is clear from these examples, oftentimes the use of one theme will give rise to other minor themes, complicating and advancing a story.
When to Use Theme
Theme is a necessary element of all narratives. It is a working element in books, poems, plays, personal essays, speeches, songs, movies, television shows, and even advertisements.