August 20, 2020

Using Powerful Themes in Story

DiAnn Mills  

A story’s theme is the meaning behind the writer’s passion to send a character on a journey. It is an engine additive that fuels why the character is motivated into action. Theme isn’t stated directly in the story, but is shown as a subtle, reoccurring message throughout that expresses the story’s idea. Some novels use theme as a theory to prove or disprove a main idea or moral statement.

The writer discovers the idea by exploring character wants, needs, flaws, and failures. Deliberate and calculated literary techniques ensure the theme is connected. For the idea to resonate with the reader, extensive characterization reveals why the theme is important and the plot demonstrates how it’s accomplished.

Without a carefully crafted story, the theme is merely a statement, obscure and useless to the writer. But when theme merges into the life of a character’s goal, it takes on new meaning. The idea keeps the storyline focused and true to the genre. Novels are always about more than a protagonist and an antagonist in a verbal or mental boxing match. Psychological needs create the theme, and it’s up to the writer to show how the character resolves the situation.

Theme has two parts

1. The writer’s interpretation. A writer is motivated to spend hours on the development of a story because she wants to prove an idea is right or wrong. She sees the theme through the lenses of personality, life experiences, culture, education, values, strengths, weaknesses, goals, and a host of other characteristics that make the writing unique. The writer’s interpretation is a distinctive “spin.”

2. The character’s translation. A character is motivated to risk everything she has to achieve success. How the character approaches the goal is dependent on his/her personality, life experiences, culture, education, values, strengths, weaknesses, goals, and a host of other characteristics that make the character unique. The character’s role also has a distinctive “spin.”

The combined perspectives allow for stories to share the same theme but from different viewpoints.

A story’s theme has a voice that uses actions and reactions. Some stories have multiple themes, but too many confuse the reader.

Simple novel writing themes such as the following examples can lay the foundation for a writing project.

1. Love conquers hate.

2. Heroes aren’t born.

3. Blood is thicker than water.

4. Love is stronger than death. (For example: Romeo and Juliet)

5. Good and evil.

6. Why do good people suffer?

7. War and peace.

8. To be forgiven, one must forgive.

9. Trust must be earned.

10. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

11. Can goodness coexist with evil?

Literary Devices has a huge list of common themes. The writer can explore these statements to add purpose and meaning to their stories.

Using a powerful theme not only keeps the writer focused in their writing project, but also ensures the reader keeps turning the pages of an outstanding story. 

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure? Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Conference, and the Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on: FacebookTwitter, or any of the social media platforms listed at 


  1. Thank you for this post DiAnn. I was delighted to see such great information about themes. As always you are so kind to share your expertise with writers.

    I am looking forward to this new book. I also made myself a note about your information on themes to help me in my own writing.

  2. I love your list of themes! Congratulations on Airborne!

  3. Great list and food for thought--I'm working on the theme of my next book. :-)