Genre Masquerading As Theme

Sadly, a lot of scripts from new/inexperienced writers that fall on my desk don’t have a theme.The writer either:

* Doesn’t know it (consciously).
* Doesn’t have it.
* Or isn’t bothering to reveal it.

People often say their theme is “Love, or Greed, or War”… or some other generic single word.
Heck, a google search is filled with similar examples.

But they’re wrong.

Theme in a story isn’t generic–it’s specific.

“Love” by itself can’t be a theme. Because if I tell you I have a story about love, that doesn’t tell you anything.

Maybe my story is about how love stinks and it ultimately crushes your soul… Or maybe my story is about how only people who take risks find love…

If I tell you my story’s theme is about War, do you have any idea what you’re about to read other than it probably has some guns in it somewhere… (maybe)… No?

But if I tell you my theme is about “How War tears away a person’s innocence.” or “How War crimes sooner or later get answered for”… You get a much more succinct idea of the direction of the story.

Really, I don’t know how you would define these ambiguous terms some folks try to pass off as theme.
To me they are closer to genre definitions than anything else. “I’ve got a love story… a War story… A horror story…” etc.

Referring to your story’s theme with a generic word, is like saying my story has action… or drama… or a scary bit… Duh!

Don’t let Genre steal your theme’s identity.

If your theme is open to interpretation, if someone can land on polar opposite extremes for the generic term you give them, you most likely have a genre, not a theme.

Sit your butt down and figure out what you’re really trying to say! ▪

About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S.  Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.


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