How To Write a Thematic Statement

Ramona DeFelice Long

What is a Thematic Statement?

Robert McKee (STORY) calls it the Controlling Idea.  John Truby (THE ANATOMY OF STORY) calls it the Theme Line.  I call it a Thematic Statement. It is a sentence that takes a broad theme and condenses it to give a particular story a particular meaning.

Theme is the big concept of your story: love, honor, justice, betrayal, loyalty, family, courage, duty.  A Thematic Statement refines the broad idea to address   your Story Question. In doing so,  the Thematic Statement guides your characters in every choice they make and helps you, the writer, by providing a moral framework.

A Thematic Statement explains WHY characters act as they do.


~In the Harry Potter series, a theme is destiny. Harry is given two gifts: the gift of great talent and the gift of life. He’s the boy who lived. But these gifts are also burdens…

View original post 195 more words


Notes from: 14 Prompts by Joe Bunting

the greatest tools you possess as a writer are your eyes – lenses, your
perspective, your paradigm (your widely accepted example, belief or concept)
You want to show people what/how you see

tools to help you escape the emotional cycle of writing:
Dont look at the writing (block screen, close eyes, etc)
Set a time limit
Take breaks

Keep writing to find your voice
Part of finding your voice is finding your particular balance with the 6 story elements (which all need to be included)

Action – Going ons (provides the conflict)
Description – describing (adds depth and paints a picture of the scene for the reader)
Dialogue – Talking (heightens that conflict)
Introspection – Thoughts (helps the reader relate)
Emotion – feelings (helps the reader relate)
Exposition – other info you to be known (puts the story in a greater context)
The cure to writer’s block is the worst sentence in the world.Because it frees you from perfectionism.

The true writer enters into wounds

People don’t need you to be perfect for them.
They need you to be so completely honest about yourself and the
world that they realize they are not alone. There’s someone out there
who gets it.
(There will


1. 3-D storytelling. Whether the story takes place in a fantasy world, in days long ago, has characters who are more than eccentric or personified, each page must contain vivid storytelling. This is best done by incorporating sensory clues so realistic the reader can’t help but live the moment with the character even if one is propelled in a rocket soaring to the sun.

2. Dialogue. Spoken words need to reveal more than conversation. Questions of the heart and mind, when said out loud, insight rebuttals, emotions, and other questions. Don’t be afraid to put a thought inside the quotes and open the door for other characters to verbally respond with their emotion.

3. Pacing. There are moments when readers need a chance to process and other moments when pages need to fly. If our books were musicals, a song would be inserted. For example, in the movie Frozen, Anna (the younger sister) was lonely. She met a handsome prince at the coronation. To speed up their attraction and marriage proposal, the song, Love is an Open Door was inserted (A hilarious song). The words and actions clarified and even justified Anna’s reasons for saying yes so quickly. For books, an anecdote could be inserted.What else could be done to give readers time to process or fast forward?

4. Reasonable components of reality must be integrated.  Winnie the Pooh, though a toy, was hungry and thirsty. True to history, Confederate soldiers died and plantations burned in Gone With the Wind. Harry Potter was bullied. Dracula could die. The snowman in Frozen saw the world upside down when his head wasn’t on right. Each of these examples serve as a key to open the door and welcome the reader/viewer into a believable story world.

Novel structure

Novel structure, explained in the most neat and simple way I've seen.
taken from


Setting is a description of where and when the story takes place.

  • What aspects make up the setting?
    • Geography, weather, time of day, social conditions?
  • What role does setting play in the story? Is it an important part of the plot or theme? Or is it just a backdrop against which the action takes place?
  • Study the time period which is also part of the setting
  • When was the story written?
    • Does it take place in the present, the past, or the future?
    • How does the time period affect the language, atmosphere or social circumstances of the novel?



Characterization deals with how the characters are described.

  • through dialogue?
  • by the way they speak?
  • physical appearance? thoughts and feelings?
  • interaction – the way they act towards other characters?
  • Are they static characters who do not change?
  • Do they develop by the end of the story?
  • What type of characters are they?
  • What qualities stand out?
  • Are they stereotypes?
  • Are the characters believable?


Plot and structure

The plot is the main sequence of events that make up the story.

  • What are the most important events?
  • How is the plot structured? Is it linear, chronological or does it move back and forth?
  • Are there turning points, a climax and/or an anticlimax?
  • Is the plot believable?


Narrator and Point of view

The narrator is the person telling the story.
Point of view: whose eyes the story is being told through.

  • Who is the narrator or speaker in the story?
  • Is the narrator the main character?
  • Does the author speak through one of the characters?
  • Is the story written in the first person “I” point of view?
  • Is the story written in a detached third person “he/she” point of view?
  • Is the story written in an “all-knowing” 3rd person who can reveal what all the characters are thinking and doing at all times and in all places?



Conflict or tension is usually the heart of the novel and is related to the main character.

  • How would you describe the main conflict?
    • Is it internal where the character suffers inwardly?
    • is it external caused by the surroundings or environment the main character finds himself/herself in?



The theme is the main idea, lesson or message in the novel. It is usually an abstract, universal idea about the human condition, society or life, to name a few.

  • How does the theme shine through in the story?
  • Are any elements repeated that may suggest a theme?
  • What other themes are there?



The author’s style has to do with the author’s vocabulary, use of imagery, tone or feeling of the story. It has to do with his attitude towards the subject. In some novels the tone can be ironic, humorous, cold or dramatic.