Focusing Your Theme

by | 12 January 2018 | Writing | 26 comments

Blog post #2 of my theme series has come. It’s been a while since the first post (sorry) so if you forgot everything about that post or didn’t read it then, hop over here to read it again (or just scan over the important parts).

Today I’m moving on from the basic ‘what is theme’ and we’re going to dive a little deeper into the next level of theme.


Since theme is the base foundation, the broad topic, we can narrow it down from there. Think of it as a funnel. At the wide end, we have the theme. Slightly farther down the funnel is our next stop: the Focusing Question.

The Focusing Question takes the theme and narrows it down a little. For example:

Theme: Hope

Focusing Question: How can you keep up hope in the darkness?

In this example, I’ve picked the question “How can you keep up hope in the darkness” but there are other aspects of the theme that could be addressed. The question could shoot from any angle depending on what part of your theme ideal you want to tackle.

The question could just as easily have been “Is hope an illusion?” or “How can hope overcome your adversaries?” These questions tackle the theme from a totally different side but can be just as effective. There isn’t a right and wrong Focusing Question.

The only wrong sort of Focusing Question is one that is too shallow and easy to answer.

If you want to affect people with your novel, it has to go further than just scraping the surface. It has to make them think. It can’t just be easy.


When you can narrow your theme down to a Focusing Question, you then need to find the answer to that question. That answer then becomes your message.

Sound easy?

Think again.

To go back to the example again, how can you keep up hope in the darkness? You could…

  • Ignore the darkness
  • Cling to the hope from the past
  • Wait it out for the darkness to leave
  • Try be the hope

All these answers are quite legitimate, and there’s many more ways that question could be answered.

Finding your message (the answer to the Focusing Question that you want to focus on through your story) isn’t going to be easy, as I said. You have to really think.

What is the right, godly way to respond in this situation?

It can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding. Not only will you end up with a more powerful novel, but you will be able to delve into some important aspects of your beliefs and faith.


So, once you narrow your theme-funnel down to a Focusing Question, take lots of time to write out answers to that question. And not just right answers. Find wrong answers too.

Just as some people might answer our example question with “If you look hard enough, hope can always be found somewhere,” they could also answer with “hope doesn’t exist” or “there’s nothing wrong with darkness” or “neither hope nor darkness is worth my time.”

Coming up with those ‘wrong’ answers is just as important, because they will be used very soon…but you’ll have to wait and see for the next post in this series. 😉


What’s the theme and Focusing Question of your novel? How would you answer the example Focusing Question? Let’s theme on in the comments below! 😀

Jane Maree

Jane Maree

Jane Maree is an Australian writer, adventurer at heart, beloved daughter of the King of Kings, and believer in at least six impossible things before breakfast. Raised on fairy tales, scraped knees, and makeshift swords, she has yet to outgrow any of them. In her day job, Jane teaches music and freelances as an editor, but by night she crafts daring stories of broken heroes overcoming extraordinary odds.


  1. Kate Flournoy

    This is one of the most beautiful parts.

    • Jane Maree

      Yesss. I love this stage of Theme-ing (totally a word) because it makes me think about important things and that’s always a good thing. 😛

  2. ClareFarrelly

    Great explanation of why you need all those answers.

    I often laugh when I see what photo you use as the header image!

    • Jane Maree


      Shh, it’s glasses. Focusing. It totally makes sense. XD

  3. Jenna

    Looking forward to continuing posts on theme!❤

    • Jane Maree

      Ahh thank you! It’s great to know that people are reading and enjoying them. 😀

      • Jenna

        Yes, I am enjoying them because currently I don’t know much about theme. This is very helpful. Thank you Jane! 😘

        • Jane Maree

          I’m so glad! 🙂

  4. Catherine @ The Rebelling Muse

    I definitely need this to narrow down my themes – which was never my strong suit to begin with. Thank for this post, Jane!


    • Jane Maree

      Aw yay! I’m glad to hear that this helped. 🙂

  5. S.F. Dekreel

    Wow. I don’t think I’ve though of this before. This was really helpful! Thanks so much!

    • Jane Maree

      I had no idea about this either a year ago and now I absolutely love theme and everything about it. 😛 Funny how that changes, huh?

  6. MiddleEarthMusician

    This was super helpful, Jane!!! The focusing question for me has been one of the hardest parts of my OYAN novel. :-Z I think the theme is going to be loyalty, and I’m still working on the focusing question, but I think it might be “Why is being loyal so important?” Possibly. :-Z Your post made it so much easier for me to find ideas for my focusing question. XD
    Also, I like the header picture. ;-D

    • Jane Maree

      Aaah I love themes of loyalty and similar to that. *claps happily* That sounds like a pretty good Focusing Question. Good job! 😀
      Aw thank you. 😉

  7. Hannah Gaudette

    Great post! This has definitely made me think about my current WIP in a bit of a different light. Honestly, I didn’t give much thought to the theme when I began to write it. *sheepish grin*

    Keep these posts coming!

    • Jane Maree

      That’s epic! I hope it helps you develop your theme and story into a stunning masterpiece. 😛

      I certainly will! I’m thinking of moving my schedule forward so the next theme post is a little sooner this time…

  8. Priscilla

    This series couldn’t have come at a better time! I am currently in the proccess of figuring out my next book, and finding that perfect theme is proving to be difficult. Great post, I’m looking forward to the next one!

    • Jane Maree

      Aah that’s great! It’s epic that this could be timed to well for you. 😀
      If you have any specific aspects of theme you want to know more about, feel free to tell me and I’ll make sure to cover them in a post. 🙂

  9. GJE

    Lovely advice! Thank you!

    • Jane Maree

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I hope it helps you. 😀

      • GJE

        You’re welcome! Thanks for posting!
        It really has helped.

        • Jane Maree

          Awh. I’m so glad to know that. ^-^

  10. Audrey Caylin

    The timing for this is very ironic, as I’ve been refining the focusing question for my novel all week xD I have a tendency to go abstract and vague with mine, which does not bode well for finding answers to the focusing question 😉

    • Jane Maree

      Oh sweet! I love it when things like this happen at ‘just the right time’. 😉
      Ah yes, that is a difficult problem. I’ve done that before and almost tore my hair out trying to work out what was wrong. xD

  11. Quinley

    Awesome post, Jane!:) This was really helpful.

    • Jane Maree

      Yay, I’m so glad to hear that! Thank you. 😀

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