Basic story themes–the story’s lesson or message–are not original, only the variations on themes are.

Here are some common story themes:

  • Honesty can triumph over dishonesty
  • Hard work and cleverness lead to success
  • Through wit and courage, the small and weak can overcome the big and bad
  • It is best to be yourself
  • Beauty is only skin deep
  • Determination and persistence lead to success

To uncover a story’s theme ask questions like the following:

  • What’s the point of this story?
  • Why do you suppose the author wanted to write this particular story? What is he/she trying to say to us? (Or if the story has been written by a student: Why did you write this particular story? What do you want to say to readers through this story?)

Many times an author isn’t aware of a story’s theme until the story has been written. Other times, an author may start writing a story with a particular theme in mind and develop the characters and plot of the story to illustrate the theme. Fables usually begin this way–with the moral clearly in mind.

A teaching suggestion: Ask students to collect themes from the stories they read and make a chart of them to display in the classroom. Students can refer to the chart as they are drafting new stories.


From the Writing Curriculum Files of Children’s Author, Suzanne Williams