How A Believable Theme Builds A Believable Plot

How A Believable Theme Builds A Believable Plot


Theme doesn’t have to be seen as some grand concept or the preserve of literary fiction. It’s just the way you see and question the world around you, or your opinion on a subject that intrigues you — in short, what you believe.

If you believe in your theme, you’re more likely to build a believable plot. What do you believe?

How A Believable Theme Builds A Believable Plot

Example One

Theme: You believe that a mother’s love for her child will always be stronger than that for anyone else.

Plot:

  1. In the year 2115, children are separated from their mothers to be raised in a special government programme — but your heroine feels a strange devastation when her child is taken away.
  2. In the middle of the story, she has infiltrated the programme and is almost convinced the programme is the right approach to child rearing until she sees how one aggressive child is subdued by drugs.
  3. In the end, she has to make a choice if she will save just her child or risk losing her child to save even more children. What do you think she does?

Example Two

Theme: You believe that there’s always a second chance at love even if you’ve had your heart broken before.

Plot:

  1. After being left by her high school sweetheart, your young heroine is so heartbroken she gets drunk, causes a public disturbance, and is sentenced to community service where she meets a bad-boy pop star.
  2. In the middle of the book, she is starting to trust the pop star – especially when she learns that he’s had heartbreak of his own in the past and his bad-boy image is just a mask.
  3. At the end of the story, when she learns that the pop star has been arrested again, she is thrown by the news — even when he tells her it’s been a misunderstanding. Does she believe in him or does she suffer another heartbreak?

Plot is a way to explore your theme.

It’s a way to test what you believe as the writer through your characters. If for example, in the sci-fi story, your heroine goes back to save the other kids – does this change what the writer believes? If, in the romantic comedy, she rejects the pop star — does that undermine our belief in the ‘happily ever after’?

Once you start digging into and exploring your theme, you’ll start coming up with great conflict points for your plot.

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 by Anthony Ehlers