Theme 101: Four Questions You Must Ask Yourself To Create a Meaningful Theme

Write what you know.

It’s one of the most common pieces of advice that’s given to beginning writers. And depending on what type of story you want to write, it may be a bit annoying. After all, if you’re writing a fantasy or science fiction novel, being told to write what you know may not seem extremely helpful in that regard.

However, regardless of genre, this phrase rings true because I believe it’s primary value is not about story setting, but about your story’s theme. You can only write powerful themes when you’ve thought a lot about that moral topic or issue, and preferably when you’ve had to wrestle with it yourself. To write about a theme, you need to understand that theme first. And that’s what this lesson is all about: how to study a theme effectively.

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Josiah DeGraaf started reading when he was four, started writing fiction when he was six and hasn’t stopped doing either ever since. After growing up with seven younger siblings, he eventually found himself graduated and attending Patrick Henry College, where he plans on majoring in literature with a minor in pedagogy (it’s a fancy Greek word for education).
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels that have worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as fun as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. Plans for obtaining those impossible goals include listening to a lot of Hans Zimmer, ignoring college work so that he can find time to write, and avoiding coffee at all costs.