Thematic Concept vs Thematic Statement

Today I want to talk about theme. Specifically, I want to go over the distinction between thematic concept vs thematic statement. I also want to discuss what I call thematic stance, which leads into the next post where I talk about developing character arcs. It’s my expectation that most of you have already tuned out at this point, but I’m going to carry on anyway.

Thematic Concept vs Thematic Statement

Thematic concept is what the reader thinks the work is about. Some people say that this has nothing to do with the writer and everything to do with the reader. I’m a firm believer in John Dewey’s statement that the work is not complete until it is experienced by someone other than the artist. The reader brings their own lenses and filters, and contextualizes a work for themselves. I still think that the writer has to provide something for the reader to interpret.

The thematic statement is what the work has to stay about the topic of the theme. Think about a book or movie review. The topic is the work that the reviewer will be discussing. The thematic statement would be whether they liked it or not, and why. It’s the promotion of an opinion, basically. If you’re making an argument with your thematic statement, hopefully the reader will carry that sense of thematic concept with them and agree with you. Even if they don’t, the presentation of your argument should be compelling, providing food for thought and some entertainment value.

Finally, we have thematic stance. This is what each character in the story thinks, or represents, about the theme. They might agree with the authorial statement. They could disagree. In a basic theme of good versus evil the characters might all agree that it’s better to be good, but each could have a separate opinion on why. Are they good because they find good deeds to be emotionally rewarding? Do they fear the legal repercussions of wrongful actions? Is their behavior driven by religious convictions? It’s a means of exploring the theme within the story.

Progress Report: Day 12

  • Today is day 12 of 90 on my journey to write the first draft of a novel.
  • Yesterday I wrote 0 words, keeping the total at 8,285.
  • That still puts me 1,685 words ahead of my target goal, based on adding 600 words per day.
  • I’m currently working on final scene of the book. I had an idea as to how the story should end. This helps, because I can circle back and write toward that.


  • Truth bomb: seasonal affective disorder and arthritis are kicking my ass this week. I’m glad we’re only a couple of weeks away from midwinter, when the days will begin getting longer and the quality of daylight will start to improve. This is why I try to get ahead when I can. Then when I need a day to vegetate, like yesterday, I don’t need to stress about it and beat myself up.
  • Seriously, I spent all day yesterday listening to Christmas music and doing crossword puzzles. It wasn’t chill or fun or relaxing, it was merely convalescent.
  • I’m contemplating adding a “what I’m reading” section to the site. While I’m tempted to drop it in here as a quick note, I’m not sure it will always be relevant. I may add it as an irregular feature to the site, its own category.

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