EWAG Blog

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To me, Theme is Everything
(Even in non-fiction)
by Sam Richard

theme graphicWhether it’s good versus evil, love conquers all, greed is bad, or to learn the basics of auto repair, theme is everything.

As a fiction writer, I understand the importance of theme. It’s the message I’m trying to convey to my readers, the objective of the story – the purpose for them reading it. It’s what my story really is about told through characters and plot. Without theme, my story is nothing more than a series of disjointed rambling scenes. Without theme I don’t have a story, I have a history of events.

In fiction, we often see themes of morality or questioning of social values. Through character actions and dialog we explore theme points and counterpoints. We see both sides of the argument and are left to decide if the author proved his point.

In non-fiction theme is just as important. When I write a training manual, or computer programming script, or even a blog, I think about the message I want my audience to get. I ask myself, “What is the purpose, the objective of this thing?”

Articulating theme points and counterpoints in non-fiction are just as essential as in fiction. When I write a course curriculum I start by stating its theme. For example, in my Introduction to Microsoft Excel course I state:

Course Objective:

To provide a foundation of knowledge for the MS Excel application.

This program will introduce the basic features and tools to create functioning spreadsheets as we take a tour of what worksheets, cells, formulas, and formatting can do.

As the course progresses and topics (theme points) are completed my message is reinforced.

By providing examples of consequences when a process is not followed, such as: you will get inaccurate results if you mistype an Excel formula, counterpoints are presented. Without counterpoints in non-fiction the audience doesn’t see both sides of the argument. They don’t have a reason to believe in the author’s message.

For me, whether I’m writing a short story, a novel, or a how-to book, theme is everything.

(Did you pick out the theme points and counterpoints of this blog post? Do you believe in my message?)

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