Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recurring Themes

To get 2014 started in style, we have a guest post by the mighty Joyce Alton, the creator and overlord of the Yesternight's Voyage blog.  Go there, and marvel!

Aaron asked a couple of simple but poignant questions:
     Looking at your work as a whole, do you see any recurring themes or imagery?
     What does that suggest to you about yourself?

So I pulled up my story idea list, the finished, the half-completed, and the ones waiting to be done, approximately 150 altogether. What I think I liked best about this topic was the self-analysis it involved, because my best ideas have come from my subconscious while I sleep. And I wondered what my recurring themes were.  I had three pop out at me:

1 – Travel and how settings affect people. Common places and settings that really stretched my imagination. I’ve had an abiding love for geography and while I may not have traveled the world, I’ve sent other people places and done the research. I find cultures and languages fascinating. One thing that relaxes me and helps me brainstorm is to draw a map. I’m always considering how my setting will play into the plot or even the overall mood of what I’m writing.

Along with natural setting, architecture and engineering fascinate and inspire me. It’s easy for me to brainstorm places and I never have anyone ask me to work more on this aspect of my writing. Usually, I have to cull description. What does this say about me? Part of me wishes I could travel. I wish I had the time to learn several languages, learn first-hand about other cultures. I love being transported when I read a story and I want to do the same thing for others when I write.

2 – Overcoming personal handicaps, particularly ones characters put on themselves: inhibitions, moral or ethical crossroads, fears, grudges, perception, the ability to choose, action vs. inaction. I love a good internal conflict. I also believe that oftenest in life our enemy is ourselves. Reaching the point of recognizing when we have an issue, choosing to ignore it or change it, the consequences, the tests and mistakes, and hopefully the point of overcoming have contributed to every story I’ve written.

I tend to be a self-doubter, a perfectionist. I’m constantly analyzing myself, my motives, and stressing over my weaknesses. I admire people who overcome, whether it’s kicking a bad habit, someone who chooses the harder road because it’s the right way to go, or the person who develops restraint despite its unpopularity and the extra persecution others think they can then heap on that person. I think I have at least one person who’s good at restraint in each of my stories.

3 – This last one is the biggest recurring theme and I’m dividing it into three parts:

Human relationships:
a) Family. Family’s a big deal to me and the people I’m related to had the most powerful impact on my life. Whether those influences were positive or negative, they are the ones I remember best, the ones which helped to shape me as a person. Recognizing that, there is a theme of family in my stories. Whether it’s a large family dealing with their largeness, a broken family, someone finding or creating a new family, or someone running away from family—every story has this element in it.

b) The side kick. The person without superpowers or position. I’ve written many stories where my point of view character or even protagonist is in actuality the side kick to someone else. These characters are strengtheners; the ones who help the more powerful characters achieve their goals. In real life we tout the
superstars, the famous, the person who took an idea and made it work, the people who are most obvious. We usually overlook the many other people who made that fame, that idea, that opportunity happen or work out. We don’t read their stories, we don’t know their names, we don’t know of their inner struggles. I’m fascinated by these not so obvious heroes and heroines and I write about them.

c) Another must are the good quirky relationships involving someone who isn’t really classified as a people person. Call it an Anti-Popular Person Successful Relationship, I suppose. This one gets a bit more personal and I have the most experience with. They say to write what you know, and I know about these kinds of relationships. You know, the person you’ve never spoken to but partially admire, partially are afraid of or think you’ll loathe? The person who isn’t necessarily a loner, but they aren’t always the center of attention. The person with their own sense of humor and who looks at life differently than most people. It’s easier to go on avoiding that person or shunning them. But here’s the secret, if you connect with someone like that, you really connect. They aren’t here-and-then-gone-again friends. And they draw you into their ideas, their perspective, their world.

So thank you, Aaron, for this opportunity to analyze my writing and myself into the bargain. I definitely learned a few new things. I’d love to read about what other writers discover when they ask themselves the same questions. What are your recurring themes and what do they say about you?

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