When I recently finished the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth, I actually threw that third book against the wall. While I had liked the first book, the other two had been a declining experience. But I hung on to the bitter end, curious as to what the author had in mind. Perhaps it was her statement about perceived superiority, or the determination of people to segregate.
No guessing, she broke a cardinal rule of theme by having a character state it openly, considered preaching “people can be cruel.”
I had read one good, two mediocre books, for that? A theme much better served by the classic Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
I have read entire books on theme, but never have I heard it been described so briefly, and so well, as in the writing book Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.
What does the story tell us about what it means to be human? What does it say about how humans react to circumstances beyond their control?
Knowing your theme in advance helps because it gives you a gauge by which to measure your characters’ responses to the situations they find themselves in.
What is it I want my reader to walk away thinking about? What point does my story make? How do I want to change the way my reader sees the world?
While you may be reticent to share the plot of what you’re writing, how about telling us your theme?