14.18: Setting as Theme

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard

Theme is one of those high-falutin’ concepts we’re often reluctant to approach in a nuts-and-bolts sort of way. In this episode we’ll talk about how our themes can be communicated through elements of our settings, deepening reader engagement with the things we write.

We offer examples from our own work, and from things we’ve watched or read which have done this in ways that resonated well for us.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Rob Kimbro, and mastered by Alex Jackson


Pick a sensory thematic element, and make it recurring. Determine a reason for it to appear in each scene.

Babylon 5, by J. Michael Stracynski

6 thoughts on “14.18: Setting as Theme”

  1. I just want to say, It’s wonderful to hear Babylon 5 get some recognition. I believe it is among the best science fiction that’s been on television. The way it addresses varying themes is masterfully done.

  2. Question for Howard: if fire is insta-death to Oafans, how did they ever develop the technology base to become a spacefaring race? We needed fire for metallurgy, distillation, (petroleum, plastics, all manner of chemistry,) generation of electricity… just about everything from the Industrial Revolution on in one degree or another.

    How did the Oafans do it?

  3. This week, the original foursome, Brandon, Mary Robinette, Dan, and Howard, chewed the fat about how to use setting to reinforce theme, or maybe how to weave a little thematic resonance into your setting? Whether you add theme early in your planning, putting it into a cell on your spreadsheet, or just add touches of light through the windows of your story, theme is going to be there. Along with an evil robot monkey and rotating clay. And sometimes the stars will shine! So, read all about it in the transcript available now in the archives.

  4. This was the first post that I listened to from Writing Excuses and now I am listening to your podcasts all the time! I appreciate the quick bites and these have been truly helpful to my writing! Thank you for your knowledge and your wit!

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