How to Develop a Theme

We have talked about the definition of theme and different ways an author may express the theme in literary work. Now, it is time for you, the student writer, to learn how to come up with a theme and incorporate it in your writing. Writing can benefit with an underlying message for the reader to learn. The main theme should be slowly introduced and developed during the story; each piece of writing should be somehow related to the theme.

First of all, you have to sit down and choose a simple theme. A simple theme is a general idea that have interested people throughout time. There are many, and I mean various themes to choose from. Here is a list of some examples:

-Life and Death: In The Lion King, Mufasa teaches Simba the meaning of "The Circle of Life". Not too long afterwards, Mufasa dies from falling from a cliff and getting trampled. Scar failed to save Mufasa so he could be king. At the end, Simba defeats Scar and avenges his father's death.

-Love: In Twilight, Edward shows his love for Bella throughout the books. Jacob is also in love with Bella and is willing to compete against Edward for her heart. The author's theme is the troubles of young love and sacrificing your life to someone who is not of nature (a vampire).

-Sacrifice: A story about a mother who works three jobs while support four children. The author may write about the struggles when it comes to making giant sacrifices for survival.

-Friendship: Picture a story about friendship between two boys get torn apart when they fight over a girl. The author may talk about the ups and downs of a friendship, but at the end, differences should be set aside and friendship that has potential should be repaired.

-Overcoming fears


Take the theme you would like to talk about, and ask yourself, "Is this the theme I want? What else do I want to say?" You will have to meditate over this, and yes, it will take time. Read a short story for inspiration and help jumpstart your "creative juices". Remember there are several ways to express a theme in a story:

  1. The character’s thoughts, feelings, and conversations.
  2. The action of a character.
  3. Repeating ideas or symbols.
  4. Identifying values and ideas.

Implied themes in a story can be described as the moral of a story. Some examples include:

-Treat others the way you want to be treated.
-Money cannot buy happiness.
-It's not the hand that you are dealt with, it's how you play them cards.

Lesson Question:

Can you think of a simple or implied theme?