Themes in fiction

*Themes* are a difficult concept to pin down, but I think the definition is something close to "an area of the human psyche central throughout the story". Every story should have one, and preferably just one. A well-executed theme is something the story can be said to be "about". I'll give some examples to illustrate my theories about the concept.

Star Wars is a story about temptation and redemption. The Jedi are obsessed with the fear of themselves turning to the dark side, and it's shown to be justified as a Jedi turns to the dark side is almost every Star Wars story. The entire prequel triology is about how one great Jedi became one of the most heinous Sith before being turned back by his idealist son. I suspect this is the one of the main reasons for the story's popularity: it has a strong theme that's close to the center of the human condition (as well as to the most popular religion).

Star Wars

Another story with good theming is the first Mistborn trilogy, especially the first book. It has two major themes: hope and trust. Hope is the external, ostensible theme that would be preserved in a plot summary, and trust is the internal theme that's the center of Vin's arc. Most of the time having more than one major theme is bad for a story because they draw attention away from each other, but in Mistborn, due to the contrast in the roles they fill, these two themes don't clash.


Doki Doki Literature Club is a story about repentance and forgiveness. It'd be too much of a spoiler to say anymore, but it's a very well-executed theme. Hell, it played a significant role in turning me away from axiological retribution!

Doki Doki Literature Club

axiological retribution


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