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Audrey Caylin: Getting To The Heart Of Your Story Part 4: Unveiling Your Theme

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Getting To The Heart Of Your Story Part 4: Unveiling Your Theme

Welcome to the grande finale of Getting To The Heart Of Your Story! I'm so excited to wrap up this series with one of my all-time favorite writing topics.


A simple word, but with so much power. Let's get to it:

(Pictures from Pinterest. An epic post deserves an epic picture)

 What is theme?

When I think of the word "theme," I think of birthday parties. You know, when you were little and you'd have a "cowboy themed" birthday or a "princess themed" birthday.

According to the dictionary, theme is a subject of discourse, discussion, meditation, or composition; topic.

Theme is the topic of your novel.

Sounds big and daunting, doesn't it? It's that one thing that novel is about, beneath all the plot twists and complex characters. It's the backbone. It's the big picture. It's what the reader is going to walk away with, or part of it.

A theme for your novel is going to be one word, like hope or justice or forgiveness or slavery. 

Wait a moment. I'm telling you to have the reader finish your book with  just one word on their mind?


Theme is two-fold: the theme is the single word, the topic, but what the reader walks away with is the message.

We all hate know school papers, right? Think of the theme as the topic, while the message is the thesis. Simple as that.

But how do you figure out that message?

Should we really continue as darkness dawns and the shroud rests softly on the moistened land ~:^?:
(Pictures from Pinterest. Sorry, I'm having an issue with epic pictures today)

   The Soul of Your Story

 Doesn't that sound freaky? But it's true. The theme is what brings your story to life. This is what's going to impact the reader, and possibly change their life. And, if you write Christian literature, it's what's going to give them a message without being preachy.

So, find a word. One word that is going to arc over your entire novel. If it's personal, even better. Hope has been a big one in my life lately, so hope is a theme for one of my novels.

Now ask a question about that word. If your theme is courage, a question you could ask is: when does courage become foolhardy?

Go back to the school paper analogy. That question is making your "topic" not so broad. The question is part of your "thesis." The other part of your "thesis" is the answer.

And the answer is what your story is going to show, and that's the message the reader is going to walk away with.

Weird, right? Those techniques you use (or used) in school can help your creative writing. Find a topic, ask a question, and answer it. Then, spend the entire story showing the answer. Show multiple answers.  But end with the one you want the reader to walk away with.

I could go on forever like about this. I'm currently taking a writing class on theme, so I just scratched the surface with the basics here. But it's so important to make your writing meaningful, no matter what kind of writing you do.

(Pictures from Pinterest)


So how do you get your message across? With the events in the plot?

No. What the characters do is going to get the message across.  

I look at it this way: the character is looking for something at the start of the story. That something is your theme, like courage. The "question" is the question your character is asking himself about courage. And he's going to spend the novel trying to find the answer. He's going to fail multiple times. That's what makes the character arcs and the plot. But, in the end, he's going to find an answer, and the reader will find that answer with him.

There's so much to explore with theme. I'm now starting to plot all my novels by first finding a theme. I always chose one that's important to me. When I don't feel like writing, I remember the theme, I remember the emotions I have attached to that theme, and I just let the emotions flood out on the page.

I know, I'm starting to get poetic (and I'm not even a poet :P). That's how I see it, though. That's how I see this wonderful, beautiful, wild crazy world of creating stories.

It's awesome ;-)


Whew! That was a lot! I feel like I learned more about my writing process by getting it out and telling you guys! Thank you for listening and bearing with me. I hope some of this might help your own writing.

Since this was so fun and I got positive feedback on it, I'm thinking of doing another series sometime in the future. However...I can't decide what I want it to be about. I'd love it if I could borrow an extra 30 seconds of your Saturday morning and answer one question below. You can stay completely anonymous and vote!

(here's the actual link, in case you can't view it)

Thank you! Expect to see the posts sometime within the next few months!

Check back next Saturday for...

beta reading sign-ups and a post on my novel?!?

See you then ;-) 


- Audrey Caylin

Thanks for reading and chatting with me about plot and characters! What do you think of theme? Have you heard of these techniques before?



At February 4, 2017 at 5:26 AM , Blogger Amy said...

Wonderful post as always, Audrey! Theme is such a hard thing to decide on; at least for me. I usually have multiple themes, but I try to narrow it down to at least one main idea.

Just thought you'd like to know, you've left out the second "i" in unveiling in the title of this post. Just thought I'd let you know :)

I've really enjoyed this series of posts, and I look forward to more :) <3 Thank you for all the great advice and info!

Amy @ A Magical World Of Words

At February 4, 2017 at 9:17 AM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Thank you! I have problems with that too: I always want to include a bunch of cool themes, but then my story is just overwhelmed with them :P

Eeep! You're a lifesaver! Thank you so much for pointing that out! :)

You're welcome! It was super fun to do and I'm excited to do another one sometime soon. It was great learning how other people do things as well. Thanks for stopping by!


At February 4, 2017 at 10:04 AM , Blogger Savannah Grace said...

EEP, Audrey - you always write such awesome posts! I totally get why you were excited for this, the post was wonderful ;).

I love finding out what the theme of my story is - but the funny part is that I never start out with any theme in mind! And once I finish writing the first draft, I'll look back on it and be surprised on how much the "theme" was woven in, even if I didn't know it was the theme in the first place xD. (AND THERE I GO RAMBLING) So for me, the theme kind of chooses itself.

I really enjoyed all your posts in this series, Audrey! Thanks for sharing your wealth of writerly info - I can't wait to see what you do next! :D

~ Savannah

At February 4, 2017 at 11:46 AM , Blogger Marrok Macintyre said...

Wow that was a cool and fun series of post! They where great at reminding me what things make up a good story! And theme is sometimes a little hard for me, I'm the kind of person that's like "YEAH FIGHT EACHOTHER!! wait what? you really want more reason then they just they want to fight? hang on while I make SOMETHING up"

At February 4, 2017 at 2:13 PM , Blogger Abigail Lennah said...

Hi, Audrey! So I saw that you've been following my blog for some time but I haven't been able to check out yours yet. ^.^

That's so funny that you published this he day right after I had to write about theme in Shakespeare's King Lear! Theme does sound like looking into the depths of your story's soul (which soul depths are terrifying enough!) but it's so important. What else besides the plot holds the novel together, right?

xoxo Morning
Ups & Downs

At February 5, 2017 at 2:09 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Audrey! Ooh I loved this post and I'll definitely be checking your blog for more!

I always love experimenting and finding the themes buried in my stories. I think they really shape a book, regardless of whether we notice it or not. And I'm impressed you were able to link school assignments to creative writing :) It makes me want to pay more attention to school and see what I can use for my own writing haha!

- Andrea at A Surge of Thunder

At February 5, 2017 at 5:12 AM , Blogger Karyssa Norton said...

OMW this was amazing and extremely helpful! :D I think that it's a great idea to pick a theme that is important to you. Because you are familiar with it, you writing will, more than likely, be better. That's just my opinion. I've found that when I read, sometimes the author does such a great job with their theme that I'm almost positive that they went through it themselves.

You should definitely do another series like this. I would "tune in" for sure. :) See you next week!

At February 5, 2017 at 9:45 AM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...


I totally get that! It's awesome how writers seem to have some instinct that makes them weave the right pieces into a story without even realizing it, right?

Thank you so much, Savannah! And thank you for being here and listening to it all. You're awesome.


At February 5, 2017 at 9:47 AM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Ah, yes, I do that sometimes too. I'm just like, "the character has to die. What more reason do I need?" XD

Thank you! I'm glad it helped you out!

At February 5, 2017 at 9:49 AM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Oh, that is ironic! Theme IS like the life force of the novel though. It's amazing just how deep it can go, right down to the core of everything.

Thanks for stopping by, Morning!


At February 5, 2017 at 9:56 AM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Nice to meet you, Andrea! Thanks for stopping by and following :)

I absolutely agree! Sometimes themes can be a little sneaky, slipping into our stories without us even realizing it.
Yes, I'm working on that as well :P I guess it makes school assignments a bit more exciting when they're linked to theme, right? ;-)


At February 5, 2017 at 9:59 AM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Oh, you've had that happen too?!?! Now I know I'm not crazy when I think that about some author's themes. lol XD

I'm currently looking at the votes and planning for another series. The list of blog posts I want to write is getting long! ;-)

Thank you :) See you then!


At February 5, 2017 at 6:38 PM , Blogger Micaiah Saldaña said...

I think theme is one of the most important parts of a story. Usually, I figure out the theme of a story before the plot and characters. xD

At February 6, 2017 at 7:52 PM , Blogger Audrey Caylin said...

Yes, absolutely! Like I said in my post, it certainly is the "soul" of any story. :D


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