Is Theme the Heart of a Story?

Ghost Writer
3 min readOct 30, 2023
Photo by Matt Walsh on Unsplash

Having more questions than answers is a fun way to live life because you always have something to think about. Like why are we here? What is my purpose? Why do people connect with writing? And one I’ve been thinking about for a while. Is Theme the heart of story?

It is what gives the story life and helps make that connection between the word and the reader, isn’t it? I feel like someone decided that it was, but I’m not so sure. Just because everyone believes something doesn’t mean that it’s fully true. The consensus does add to its validity but that doesn’t mean we can’t question it to see if your understanding lines up with theirs. But back to the topic at hand.

Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash

Conflict is the Heart of Story

It can be argued that theme is the heart of a story but through my researching it’s starting to look like conflict is the heart of story and theme is only a facet. But let’s define something first. I’m starting to see a lot of arguments between people who believe the same thing but just have different definitions that are creating the disconnect.

A common definition of theme is why the writer is writing and what they want the reader to take away from the story.

And I like to define conflict as internal and external factors working in tandem to create conflict.

But then my mind tells me that Theme is still within the bounds of physics, so the theme of the story is what the writer wants the readers to know, but the writer’s only tool is the words they write to craft their story. The conflict they construct, which is both internal and external, affects the characters. The theme becomes a small part of what drives the characters to think and act when viewing the story from outside the bounds of the narrative.

In an article on Aristotle’s writing he puts,

“plot as the first essential element of storytelling, referring to it as the life and soul of any story. He often referred to plot as action – the arrangement of incidents. Without action, there can be no character. Without action, there can be no implementation of an idea…

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Ghost Writer

Just tryin to figure out writing and here's what I've learned so far.