One of the things I love doing when writing is creating the same scene twice to show the evolution of the character arc at its center. Until recently, I didn't know there was a term for this strategy.

It's called a 'thematic echo,' and it actually is a lot deeper than just writing something twice, with changes.

Today, I want to go over the term, look into its uses, and talk about how you can effectively add them to your screenplays.

Let's dive in.

Defining Thematic Echo

Defining Thematic Echo

Breaking Bad


A thematic echo is a powerful storytelling technique that reinforces a screenplay's central message by strategically repeating motifs, symbols, or situations throughout the narrative.

These "echoes" deepen the audience's understanding of the theme and its significance to the characters' journeys.

The Key Elements of a Thematic Echo

The Key Elements of a Thematic Echo

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

New Line Cinema

By weaving thematic echoes into the narrative, screenwriters can create a sense of cohesion and build a richer thematic tapestry.

Before you try to repeat a scene, you should think about these core parts so you can make sure it matters.

  • Theme: The core idea or message your screenplay explores.
  • Motif: A recurring element, image, or idea that contributes to the theme.
  • Symbol: An object, character, or situation that represents a deeper meaning beyond its literal form.
  • Echo: The repetition of a motif, symbol, or situation throughout the screenplay.

Examples of Thematic Echos

Examples of Thematic Echos



Sometimes, the easiest way to understand these terms is to look at them in action. so we should check out some clear examples of echos in action.

  • The Lion King: Simba's journey echoes his father Mufasa's, highlighting the importance of responsibility and facing challenges. And the idea of returning to pride rock as a child and as an adult layersi n the growth of the character.
  • Breaking Bad: The constant use of blue throughout the series (clothing, meth, pool) echoes the corruption and descent of Walter White. And also, think about how we show the changes in Walt as we go back and forth at the car wash, from a place he's mistreated to a place he rules with an iron fist.
  • Parasite: The recurring image of stairs emphasizes the societal divide and the characters' struggle to climb the social ladder.

How to Formulate Your Own Thematic Echo

How to Formulate Your Own Thematic Echo

Earth to Echo

Relativity Media

If you want to make sure your screenplay has these moments, we have a few strategies that can help you on the path.

  1. Identify Your Theme: What is the central message you want your screenplay to convey?
  2. Develop Motifs and Symbols: Brainstorm elements that visually or metaphorically represent your theme.
  3. Strategic Placement: Introduce your motifs and symbols early and then strategically repeat them throughout the story at key turning points or moments of character growth.
  4. Evolution and Variation: Don't simply repeat the echo verbatim. Allow it to evolve as the story progresses, reflecting the characters' journeys or the changing thematic weight.

All of this feels like stuff you might add when rewriting the script. It's the accouterments you put in to take your story from good to great. And the flourishes that really showcase your writing abilities.

Hopefully, you can tackle these and make sure they help highlight the message inside your story.

Let me know what you think in the comments.