How to Engage your Readers with a Theme

them is the heart and soul of your story

A Compelling Theme Produces an Inner Richness to Your Story.

I know, you say, I am writing a murder mystery, I don’t need a theme.

Guess What? Every story needs a theme, a moral premise, if it is to be memorable.

From ancient times stories have been told and retold about virtuous heroes and heroines. Audiences have not changed. Think about the ancient tales that are still told today Aesop’s Fables and Greek myths, all have morals. In more recent years, Dickens’s, A Christmas Carol and C. S. Lewis’s, Narnia. In modern times Star Wars and Harry Potter.

The best loved stories have a moral premise.

For more information about moral premise check out

While the plot engages your audience intellectually, the theme engages your audience emotionally.

scroll theme 1

When you first lay out your story, consider what your message you would like to share.

The theme is the overall life lesson, the moral, of your novel, play, or short story.

It is the struggle your characters face trying to maintain their personal values.

Consider your character’s profound yearnings. What motivates them?

You want to create characters with an unquenchable desire to:

  • Seek the truth                              Improve the environment
  • Have a family                              Defend the poor
  • Promote a patriotic cause         Save the world
  • Loyalty and friendship               Have compassion
  • Protect others                             Has a spiritual awakening

For more theme ideas go to:

Believe it or not. It is the emotional connections that engages your readers.

Let your characters be motivated by a philosophy you are passionate about. Instill your characters with principles. Create a storyline which allows them to hold fast to those values with courage and perseverance. The greater the obstacles and the more steadfast your characters, the stronger your theme.

Develop a theme with narrative and images capable of arousing your readers emotionally.


Moral theme

A Theme Creates a Memorable Story


Whether you are writing a mystery, fantasy, romance, or science fiction, to create a really memorable story, you need a Moral. Something of profound depth and vivid significance to you. A great theme should make your readers ponder your story outside of their desire to find out what is going to happen to your characters.

Your readers will gain insights about their own lives as you characters find answers to their moral dilemmas. 

The theme must be a truth about life, love or people based on observations you, the writer, have discovered. As a writer, you want to present a clear examination of human foibles. How your characters overcomes their own weaknesses or the character flaws in others is what will make your message work. For more details see: Creating a Sensational Protagonist.

The theme should be conveyed in dialog or action, not in exposition. Readers don’t want to be preached to.


scroll theme 2


Consider a Theme Before You Write

We did not understand the importance of a theme when we first wrote. we had to go back and add a theme to each book.

So now before we begin to write, we consider what message we want the reader to gain from our story. We weave the message throughout the story in different ways. The better our theme is incorporated into the story, the more successful it will be.


Will your message echo in the reader’s memory long after they put the book down? Does it impact the soul?

For our readers to have an intimate experience with our story, it must press upon their minds and arrest their senses.

We want our characters intimately involved with the life lesson we call our theme. As the inhabitants of our fiction evolve, our readers will gain insights about their own lives. When our characters discover answers to their life questions, the reader will join in their own journey of self-discovery. We want our readers to glen some valuable lesson from our character’s struggles.

We try to create moments of private reflection for both our characters and our readers.


Finding your Theme in a Finished Story

Here are some tricks.

If you don’t know what your theme is, try writing an essay about the undercurrent in the story. Explore your novel as a literary work. Ponder what principles your characters have struggled with, what valuable lesson have they learned.

Once you have discovered a thematic element, go back and weave it boldly into your story.  Use characters, symbols, and vivid images to contribute to your theme. Revise your story with the emotional elements you have discovered.

Yes, you need a theme if you want to create a haunting novel. One well remembered and well loved.

A story that will cast a lasting spell on your readers, and make them anxious to read your next book.

What kind of theme do you think is most appealing to readers?

Do you agree that stories need themes?


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Happy Writing

John & Patty  2018

John and I have written a book for new writers. We have developed a method that will simplify your creative writing.                             6 Steps to becoming an author

We call it the STORYBOARD METHOD. We’ve written four books using this method. It is free for you to download.


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