Some see theme as a premise, such as Greed leads to self-destruction. Others see theme as an area of exploration such as man’s inhumanity to man. Both of these aspects of theme, and more, will need to be explored for your story to have a strong emotional throughline. Therefore, before you begin writing your story, take time to simply describe the issues you would like your story to examine thematically. This thematic synopsis can serve as a guide to keep your story’s message on track.
To this end, you may want to consider these thematic points:
The premise approach to theme usually tries to illustrate the results which grow from human imperfections. To prove its point, a thematic argument must be made over the course of the story to show that the stated outcome is unavoidable if one does not shed oneself of a negative attribute.
Conversely, a premise can just as easily seek to prove that a good trait leads to a favorable outcome, such as Compassion leads to true happiness. More complex themes may even propose that Compassion leads to self-destruction, or that Greed leads to true happiness, creating mixed feelings in the audience. Of course, all of this is tempered by the manner in which the material is presented: as comedy or drama, for example.
Exploration themes tend to be less linear, seeking to examine a positive or negative trait in a number of manifestations such that the audience ultimately arrives at an overall rating of that trait ranging somewhere along the scale from favorable to unfavorable. For example, one author might show that man’s inhumanity to man is an inherent evil. Another author might put forth that man’s inhumanity to man is a necessary evil that allows for progress of the species. Yet another author might propose that man’s inhumanity to man is a good thing because only through physical and emotional violence is the human spirit truly alive.
No matter how popular or unpopular a thematic value may be with an audience, a story always gains in depth and power from a fully developed theme.
Though you will eventually want to add detail and nuance fo your theme, for your initial thematic synopsis, simply describe the central message or thematic topic of your story, and how you want the audience to feel about it.
Example: Star Wars seeks to prove that if we keep a noble heart and trust in ourselves, we will ultimately triumph over any opposition, no matter how outmatched we appear to be.
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