A Story Without a Theme Isn’t a Story At All: Basic Storytelling Elements Part 5

Welcome to my ten-part series where we’ll be going through the basics of storytelling as outlined in my guidebook The 10 Lost Elements of Storytelling – a book you can get for free by subscribing to my newsletter! In these posts, we’ll be going over the basics of these storytelling elements, but my guidebook is more detailed on some subjects and provides examples and resources. All you need to do is say “yes” to receiving a fun, inspirational, and educational newsletter once a month.

So, where are all the informative posts about theme nowadays?

I’ve read so many meaningless stories recently that I find it very strange that no one’s talking about this critical error invading the writing world. At the same time, though, I’m not too surprised.

As a busy society, when we want to rest, we turn to meaningless things. Comedy shows. First-person shooter video games. Things that once had value are now being stripped of purpose because we are – let’s be honest – lazy. I don’t think that purely “fun” things are inherently bad (depending on what the “thing” is, of course), but I do think that we glorify them far too much nowadays so that they get in the way of us actually doing meaningful things with our lives.

But stories were never meant to be meaningless.

Stories have always been clever ways of sneaking real-world truths into people’s brains by means of fiction. I think of how Jesus explained so much of Christianity through stories. He spoke – exclusively, many times – in parables because he knew that stories are effective at helping people understand truth.

Up until recently, authors seldom wrote stories because they thought of a cool plot they wanted to show everyone. Stories were written because people had good ideas that they wanted to share with the world. But now, theme is often forgotten in favour of more flashy story elements like plot and characters.

So, what is your story about? Past the genre and the plot, what does it preach? What is it saying to your audience?

If you’re not sure, you need to stop right now wherever you are in the writing process and think about this. It’s possible you have a theme and just didn’t realise it, but it’s also possible that you thought of a plot and some cool characters and didn’t consider a theme. But this is why we write. Your story must have a theme, or else it’s just a little entertaining thing that will fade from memory as soon as it’s read.

If you’re struggling to find your theme, don’t panic, even if you’ve already finished your first draft. You likely put a theme in there already without even noticing – clever you! Here are some questions you can ask yourself to create – or unearth – your theme:

  • What do you care about?
  • What do you want to teach people? (If everyone just knew _______, the world would be a better place.)
  • What can be better in the world?

Once you find the answer to your theme, it will become the central focus of your book. Everything should point to this in the end (stated through showing instead of telling, of course – that’s the tricky part!). And note that few stories have only one theme, though there’s usually a main one. Themes like love, honesty, loyalty, etc. are pretty common secondary themes that will often naturally emerge from your story.

How did you discover the theme of your book? Let me know down below! And as always…

Happy writing!

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll consider donating to the blog and/or reading my stories on Vocal so I can continue to produce free content!

Want to delve even further into the writing world? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter to get a FREE storytelling guidebook right off the bat, plus insider looks into my upcoming works, writing memes, book recs, and much more!

Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash

Current Donation Goal: Standing Desk! $30/$150

Choose a donation amount


Or enter a custom amount


When you write as much as I do, you have to take frequent breaks from sitting. A standing desk (not a whole desk, but a mini desk that will sit on top of my current desk with my laptop, keyboard, and mouse and extend upward) will allow me to continue working while maintaining that good blood flow to my brain. Thank you so much for your support that allows me to keep producing free content. God bless you! ♥️ E.J.


One thought on “A Story Without a Theme Isn’t a Story At All: Basic Storytelling Elements Part 5

  1. Pingback: Fixing the Story: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms | E.J. Robison

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s