by Debbie Erickson
(Mishawaka, IN US)

Question: Can you have more than one theme in a story?


Answer: Absolutely. In fact, dramatica theory states that a completely developed story will explore four thematic issues, and their counterpoints. That's one issue and counterpoint for each of the four throughlines.

The real meaning and thematic message of a story is ineffable, and is located in the blindspot at the intersection of all four throughlines, which is why no one can ever definitively say what the real meaning of a story is, though it is certainly possible to say what the thematic message is for any one throughline.

Comments for Themes

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Sep 05, 2012
by: Anonymous

Oops! Regarding themes, you say we can have more than one, but what about for children's novels, age 8-12?

Thank you.

Sep 06, 2012
by: Glen

Good middle-grade novels can also have all four throughlines in play, and can have multiple themes, though some themes and throughlines may stand out more.

For instance, you may have a story which seems to be "all about" the relationship between the main and impact characters. There might still be an overall plot involving all the characters, but it's secondary. Consequently, the theme of the Relationship throughline may be the only one most readers will notice.

It's up to you how much you want to develop your story, how complex you want it to be, or how much emotional depth you want to create.

May 04, 2013
by: Anonymous

Hey, I was wondering on how can it be one theme for each throughline? Wouldn't the: main character, impact character, as well as relationship all fall under the same theme? Consider that they all reflect the inner conflict of the main character?

May 16, 2013
by: Glen

Think about theme as values. The main character will have certain values, things he thinks are important. The impact character may have a different set of values that oppose the main character's. The impact character challenges the main character's assumptions by presenting an alternative viewpoint, thus prompting the main character's inner conflict.

Similarly, the main and impact character relationship may be based on certain values which they share (different than the ones they differ on). This shared viewpoint can be at odds with the values of the society or story world they inhabit.

So the relationship and overall throughlines conflict over "our" values versus "their" values. The main and impact character throughlines conflict over "my" values versus "your" values.

May 17, 2013
by: Anonymous

So also, you said that each throughline has their own theme or value that they want to achieve as well as the counterissue.

So if Overall(them), MC (Me), IC (you), and Relation ship is (us); how do we find a counterpoint for each one?

May 17, 2013
by: Glen

Think of each throughline's issue and counterpoint as a different viewpoint.

For instance, in Star Wars, Obi wan and Yoda (impact characters) believe that appearances are deceptive and the real power is the Force within someone (appearance vs. Force). Luke believes in his dreams and aspirations, even though he has yet to prove himself (dream vs. reality). Yet in terms of the relationship throughline, both Luke and Obi wan believe that what's on the inside is more important than what's on the outside - so that is a shared value (inside vs. outside). This contrasts with the overall throughline in which the empire judges people based on appearance (homogeneity is better than diversity, humans are better than non-humans).

It can get very complex, but that's why readers have such fun dissecting themes.

May 17, 2013
by: Anonymous

wow, you did it again. Thanks again, when my new debit card comes in through the mail, I will be sure to donate to this site.

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