There are many elements that go into making a short story. There are plot, setting, characters, action, dialogue and point of view, or voice. One element that should never be overlooked, however, is the theme. The theme is the message within the story, which all the other elements work to convey. Choosing real, strong themes that resonate with many readers is what makes a short story well-written and remembered long after the reading.
Love and Friendship
Stories about love and relationships are popular because they speak to many people, and there are countless angles that can be taken besides the typical romance. For instance, a story which includes a mother and son could illustrate the theme of familial love with all its strengths as well as conflicts, or a story about two friends could show acceptance and loyalty. Triumph over differences, sacrifice, the joy of giving and receiving and also the pain of love, are all theme ideas in this category.
Death and Loss
Darker theme ideas for short stories include the pain of losing something or someone close to you, whether because of death, distance or the end of a relationship. Broken dreams and changing circumstances, abandonment and even the loss of self are good themes because many people have these experiences. Stories about life's disappointments can be addressed with either the theme of defeat or of triumph, and convey that message to those who read the story.
Fear and Struggle
There should be conflict in every short story, around which the plot is built, but sometimes the theme itself can be about the conflicts that we face and the emotions that we feel, and what they mean. A story about an abused child would demonstrate a theme of fear, and a story about a single mother or an individual in poverty would say something about struggle and how it effects our lives. Again, these themes can have either an inspirational or cynical message, depending on the author.
Learning and Growth
Because there are many experiences and many truths, short story themes of learning, growth and new perspectives can be very broad. In these themes, the character in the story may realize something about himself or about life that is universal, which he then applies to the situation. A story about a recovering alcoholic, prejudice, racism, or stories about young people who are in a stage of changing and developing could all demonstrate these themes.