by Chuck Wendig
1. Every Story Is An Argument
Every story’s trying to say something. It’s trying to beam an idea, a message, into the minds of the readers. In this way, every story is an argument. It’s the writer making a case. It’s the writer saying, “All of life is suffering.” Or, “Man will be undone by his prideful reach.” Or “Love blows.” Or, “If you dance with the Devil Wombat, you get cornholed by the Devil Wombat.” This argument is the story’s theme.
2. The Elements Of Story Support That Argument
If the theme, then, is the writer’s thesis statement, then all elements of the story — character, plot, word choice, scene development, inclusion of the Devil Wombat — go toward proving that thesis.
3. Unearthed Or Engineered
The theme needn’t be something the writer is explicitly aware of — it may be an unconscious argument, a message that has crept into the work like a virus capable of overwriting narrative DNA, like a freaky dwarven stalker hiding in your panty drawers and getting his greasy Norseman stink all over your undergarments. A writer can engineer the theme — building it into the work. Or a writer can unearth it — discovering its tendrils after the work is written.
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