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Topics Are Not Themes: Part II


Here's a link in case you missed Part I.

Many writers start with nothing but a topic, and the theme emerges as they write – birthed from the story. Never start writing without a topic. Otherwise, there’s little chance of finding commonality between your scenes, characters, world design and everything else in the story.

Other writers will start with a clichéd theme. No judgment; not all stories need an elegantly worded theme. For example, a silly comedy doesn’t need to make a profound statement. Just look back after your first draft. If you’ve drawn the story from a topic or clichéd theme, you might just find a real pearl in there.

The following are examples of topics and potential themes.

Good and Evil

  • Good and evil are the opposite sides of the same coin.

  • Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  • The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.


  • Love is blind.

  • Treat others as you want to be treated.

  • Love will set you free.


  • Love is too precious to be ashamed of.

  • Don’t judge a book by its cover.

  • Everyone’s blood is red.


  • It’s not what you get, but who you become.

  • If you want success, start failing.

  • The ambition and focus that propel you to success can also be your downfall.


  • The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.

  • Courage is not the absence of fear.

  • Where fear is present, wisdom cannot be.


  • Happiness is not having what you want. It’s wanting what you have.

  • Happiness isn’t a destination. It’s a way of getting there.

  • Happiness is fleeting.


  • Play the part and you will become it.

  • Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

  • Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.


  • Believe in yourself.

  • As long as people believe in absurdities, they will continue to commit atrocities.

  • Moral skepticism leads to cruelty.


  • Things aren’t as bad as you think. Sometimes they’re worse.

  • The future is not written.

  • Things do not change. We do.