The theme of a novel is the essential topic or issue a book addresses. We can classify themes into two broad categories, viz. thematic concept and thematic statement. While a thematic concept is something that readers think and perceive about a novel, the thematic statement is what the book actually says about its characters and story.
- Keep your theme unique– gone are those days where themes like ’love conquer all,’ or ’pride comes before a fall,’ will work. You must choose a theme that’s different and thought-provoking. You will get brownie points for themes that are unconventional.
- Decide the tone of your novel – novels that cherish and glorify antagonists are on the rise today. If you are planning to have a theme that revolves around that, your novel’s tone and narration must also correspond to it.
- Once you have a unique theme, narrow it down to a particular theme – the more certain your theme is, the more compelling your novel will be. Instead of having a theme as ‘environment and sustainability,’ you can make your theme more specific like ‘climatic changes and its impact on Indian agriculture.’
- While finalizing the theme, consider your characters–your characters will automatically guide you towards the theme. Identify what your characters are passionate about, and that will give you more options to make it unique and specific.
- Analyse the conflicts in your story – after all, no story will be happy throughout. If you have a protagonist, you will most probably have an antagonist. The antagonist may not necessarily be a person; it can be a series of events as well. Analyse the negative side of the story. When you look at the conflicts, you will get clarity. Use that clarity to finalize the theme.
- Write down answers to all the ‘why’s – as we mentioned earlier, the theme is something that will give a response to the entire set of why questions you have in your mind. Once you write down the responses, you will have the theme right in front of you.
- Write a couple of chapters and see if the plot matches your theme– once you have decided the theme and plot, you must make sure they complement each other. Write a few chapters and ask a friend to read it. Ask him/her to give an unbiased opinion about the chapters they read. What was the thematic concept that he understood from these chapters? Is it close enough to the one you perceived? Discuss, rewrite and tweak until you are satisfied.
I hope these tips help you in finding the right theme for your novel.
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