How Literary Themes Can Make Your Novels Better

by Disha Walia
published in Writing

What is the difference between good novels and great novels? Great novels explore a literary theme that leaves a huge impact on the readers’ mind. These novels explore human nature, universal emotions, and the desires within each of us. The literary themes are what can leave your readers with a sense of wonder and pull them back for several rereads. And what if I tell you, you can easily get that same effect with your story?

Let’s first take a moment to understand what a literary theme is and why it is important. 

Literary themes are the main idea you want to explore through your story. It can be a message you want to deliver through your work or the exploration of a certain part of human society. Recall some of the best novels, movies, or TV shows you have ever watched. They must have had a literary theme or a message they conveyed.

Doing this is important because you want your novel to be relatable. We, as human beings, tend to look for things that resonate with us. Literary themes and the characters exploring it can make your readers feel closer to your story. It also makes just a random bunch of events into something heartwarming. But have you ever wondered which of the multiple themes you see out there can work best with speculative fiction and how? Read on to find out!

Good Versus Evil

The quintessential fight between good versus evil has captured readers’ attention for a long time. Whether you first came across it in some religious scripture or found it in a novel, like the Harry Potter series, this theme speaks to the masses. And for a good reason. The theme is about the protagonist going against an antagonist. This antagonist can be an individual, a society, or even a supernatural force. A good versus evil theme lends itself well for speculative fiction by creating tension in a unique world setting, and can even help unravel mysteries about the world, characters, or their species. This theme can also help bring the protagonist’s internal conflict to the forefront without overshadowing your unique world building.

Love and Friendship

Often a powerful theme, and the most universally understood. After all, everyone, at one point in their life, has craved for an epic love or a beautiful friendship. Maybe even both. The theme works well because it has so much potential, from exploring toxic relationships to describing heart-wrenching sacrifices. For speculative fiction, this theme can work as an extra layer to your already extraordinary ‘what if’ question. If the stakes are high in your novel, you can sprinkle in the chosen flavor of your love and friendship theme: forbidden love, unrequited love, familial love, betrayal, or friendship. If your protagonist is going on a journey to an unexplored world, but has someone to return to, or finds someone along the way, it makes the story more impactful.

Revenge and Redemption

The tension is always high when revenge comes into play. Often, you find revenge themes in the classic superhero stories. How you play it out will determine how the story is perceived by the readers. I, personally, enjoy writing the revenge theme. The first novel-length story, House of Cards, I put out into the world without a pen name, was centered on it. It explored the cost of human life and how much you can stretch morality without tipping over to the darkside. Doesn’t that sound fun? Redemption is a whole other story (no pun intended). It is hope. Finding the error of your ways. Speculative fiction can do wonders with a redemption theme. Rather than turning the mood all gloomy, your novel can be the sunshine of hope.

Courage and Perseverance

This is not just something seen in literature, but also in real life. When faced with adversity, people fight against it and come out the other side as victors. The odds might not be in their favor, but that is what makes the story nail-biting good! Protagonists in speculative fiction often have to show courage and perseverance to reach their goals. After all, the unique world is often just as new to them as it is to the readers. Even if it is not, the ‘what if’ question can test them to their limits. This might, after all, be a good match to your novel. 

Remember, you can always mix and match your themes. As long as the central idea resonates with your readers, they will remember what they read for a long time.

Which theme are you going to pick next? I can’t wait to read in the comments. Until next time!

Disha Walia is a lifelong storyteller and an enthusiastic writer and editor in love with the idea of exploring the creative world of words. While making her space in the world of non-fiction and fiction alike, Disha loves to spend even her free time daydreaming about what next to write. Connect with her on You can also follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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