Theme Exercise


Theme Exercise

 by Deb Brammer


The theme for your story is the one thing you are trying to say. It gives “take-away” value.  Even though the characters and setting are unique to your story, the theme is something that the reader can take away and apply to his own life.


Collect examples of theme.


Go around your house or library and pick out stories you like.  You might choose a children’s beginning reader, a story from Reader’s Digest, your favorite movie, a Bible story, and an O Henry story from the internet.


For each story you have collected list the subject matter and theme. Here are some examples:


Frog and Toad Together, by Arnold Lobel, “The Garden.”

Subject: Patience.

Theme: Hard work and patience produce good results.


Superfudge by Judy Blume

Subject: Coping with younger siblings.

Theme: Families can be annoying, but they are worth it.


Joseph, Sold by his Brothers, The Bible

Subject: Adversity.

Theme: Trust in God and continued obedience overcome betrayal and hard circumstances.


Princess Diaries a movie starring Anne Hathaway

Subject: Overcoming fear.

Theme: Courage is not the absence of fear, but realizing something is more important than fear.


“The Gift of the Magi” by O Henry.

Subject: Self-sacrifice

Theme: It’s the thought that counts. OR The heart behind giving is more important than the gift itself.


State your own theme.

Take something you have written or your current writing project and decide what one thing you are trying to say with your piece. If you can’t figure out the theme of your piece, is it because you haven’t developed it well enough?


Make it a habit.

Each time you read a short story or book or watch a movie, ask yourself what the theme was. Write it down in your journal or idea notebook. When you need a new idea for a story, look at these themes. How could you write your own unique story with the same theme?


See “Building Your Story #1” for Lee Wyndam’s style of writing themes which give a concise synopsis of the whole story.