Plot vs Theme
What are they?
And if they were gods, what would they look like?
Well, you're about to find out.
Plot is defined, per Wikipidea, as a literary term for the events a story comprises, particularly as they relate to one another in a pattern, a sequence, through cause and effect, or by coincidence. One is generally interested in how well this pattern of events accomplishes some artistic or emotional effect. An intricate, complicated plot is called an imbroglio, but even the simplest statements of plot may include multiple inferences, as in traditional ballads.
But in my own words, plot is action - action caused by your protagonist(s) or antagonist(s). It is not simply a chain of events that happens to these characters, it's what they do.
If Plot were a person it would look like this:
Why? Quite simple: A plot is enigmatic until the very end - when everything comes full circle and "the cup runneth over", if you will. Like many a bad guy, their true motives are never understood until the resolution. To this effect, plot may as well be a shady individual who is more than meets the eye.
And speaking of more than meets the eye, Theme is one such thing.
As per Wikipedia, Theme is a main idea or message, of an essay, paragraph, movie, television program, book or video game. The message may be about life, society, or human nature. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. Along with plot, character, setting, and style, theme is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction
Super awesome blogger CBame13 posted a great list of characters from famous books and their motivation. Mind you, Motivation and Theme are two different things, but one can help the other and I'll soon show you how. For now, here's a brief excerpt from that post.
Star Wars the Real Trilogy- Luke is a whiner, but he always thirsts for adventure. Setting him up as an adventure seeking character makes it feasible that when his home is destroyed, he heads off to live his dream of fighting in the rebellion
Harry Potter- Their main motivation is just to be nosy little brats as most kids are. This would be fine, but even little kids know not to kill themselves and to, at some point, call for help.
The Heir Trilogy- Most probably haven't heard of this series, but i'd recommend it for a pretty easy read with an entertaining story. The motivation starts out with him just wanting to see what he can do with his cool new powers and it ends up being a fight for the freedom of huge groups of people. A bit shaky, but still amusing.
The Ear, The Eye, and The Arm- Another book most people haven’t read, it starts out with a group of detectives being hired to find some missing children and it turns into this whole huge epic quest. Similar to the Heir Trilogy, The initial motivation is fine, but it makes little sense why the three detectives here would go and save the world like they do.
The Lord of the Rings- I’m sure most people don’t want to hear anything bad about this series, but the idea that a midget of a person would willingly venture into the fires of Mount Doom to drop a ring in a volcano seems silly to me. Love the story, not the motivation.
Iron Man- Tony Stark sees his legacy being tainted and put in the hands of the same murderous bastards who tried to kill him. Simple revenge motivates him, then turns him into a modern-day super hero. I really like how they did it.
To my understanding, Theme is what the central idea of the story hinges on: hope, bravery, hate, love and what have you. It's what inspires motivation - the very root of it - and here's a simple reason why: A woman is killed by a gangster and her father grabs his gun and seeks out this thug. For revenge, obviously (and this is motivation), but what is the root of revenge? Hate, right? And that is your theme (considering the summary I gave is the entire plot).
Without motivation there could be no theme and vice versa. And if theme were a god, it would obviously be this one:
Like Demeter, Theme is the force behind a great foundation - full of color, vim and vigor. It inspires without persuasion and, like mother earth, you often forget it's there.