Short story theme ideas

Updated July 20, 2017

Short stories are a unique and fun literary format. When writing short stories, authors cannot afford to waste a single word. They must be compact and precise, doing their best to give the reader an emotional impact in just a few pages. Because of their length, short stories generally carry a single theme or message within their words. When writing short stories, creating a theme can be done through various methods.


Keeping a notebook to write down ideas that pop into your head is a great tool for creating themes. These ideas can be anything from dialogues to character sketches. An author can use these various ideas to brainstorm themes and flesh out a story's plot line.


Prompts are used to help spark a story. They can vary from an opening scene to a few words which you write about. This teaches an author to think outside of the box and try new approaches to writing. Prompts can also trigger inspirations for themes and help clear writer's block. Prompt generators can be found online. These will give a writer various scenes and words from which they can create a story.

Real-life Experience

Writing from personal experiences can develop themes as well. Using memories from the past, an author can develop a story's theme with ease. Writers can also journal memories as well, using them as bullet points for brainstorming later on. A writer can also twist or exaggerate real-life experiences to bring new elements to a theme.


Because short stories are brief, there is generally only one or two main characters in the story. Describing these characters in detail will help an author better understand how a plotline may play out. Depending on the type of character, the theme of a short story can vary greatly. Short story themes can drive off of the main character's experiences and the changes they undergo.


Sometimes the best way to find a theme is to write. A good habit to develop is to write a story completely before editing. Writing without pausing for correction develops a story better, and can eventually lead to a story's theme appearing on its own. Since all stories will go through rewrites, using this method holds little risk for creating a short story.

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About the Author

Adam Gilbert began professionally writing in 2009. He has experience collaborating on blogs and public articles and is currently published in the College Of Lake County's "Willow Review" and in Westlake Christian Academy's annual public letter. He has received an Associate of Arts and is now working towards a Bachelor of Arts in English.