Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Writing Themes

Either it's a temporary fluke or my summer body clock schedule has kicked in early because I was up earlier than normal again this morning, without setting an alarm. I don't know what I'll do with all this extra time. Because OnDemand remained on the fritz, I couldn't do my usual online TV analysis, so I got a lot of writing done yesterday. This morning I've already washed my sheets and towels and done my usual morning Internet stuff (minus TV discussion), so I guess I'll be ready to run errands when the sheets and towels come out of the dryer, and then I'll have the afternoon free to work. Or else I'll give in and get the episode via Amazon or iTunes and make up for lost time online.

A few days ago, an online writing group I'm part of got into a discussion about themes in our work. I don't consciously put any particular theme in my writing, but thinking about it made me notice a few patterns. It's possible that more objective people will notice even more that I'm not aware of, but here are a few I've identified:

1) One really odd one: The heroine of every novel I've had published has an -ie or -y name. Just in the last two series, there's been Katie, and then Sophie and Emily, and then in the upcoming steampunk book it's Verity. I forgot the names of the heroines of my romance novels, but it also applies to them. I don't do this on purpose (I don't have a name like that). I do write heroines with different names, but those books haven't sold. This is now making me a little superstitious. Part of me wants to break the pattern, but part of me is worried that I'd be jinxing myself.

2) I think if there is any kind of personal, overarching theme to my books, it's something to do with finding one's place in the world. Sometimes that's about being an outsider, sometimes it's about discovering gifts or talents and how they should be used, and sometimes it's about finding a niche. I do tend to write about people who don't quite fit perfectly anywhere, and that probably does come from me. I always seem to be a bit of an oddball, no matter where I go. I'm a little too "normal" in geeky crowds (I'm kind of a stealth geek), but too geeky in non-geek groups. I'm not quite as pious as a lot of people in church groups (as in, I prefer "secular" entertainment rather than anything falling into the "inspirational" category -- though this has become better since I switched from Baptist to Methodist), but I'm far more religious than anyone outside of church groups (probably the biggest reason I'm still single because finding that balance is difficult, and yet it's pretty critical for me in a person I could live with). Growing up, I was always the newcomer. Feeling out of place wherever I go is practically my comfort zone, so that's where I seem to stick my characters. There's also a lot of story potential there because the conflict is inherent.

3) I tend to write heroines who have difficult relationships with their mothers -- not abusive or dark, just a personality clash. This is something that doesn't come from me, as I have a great relationship with my mother. This has mostly been generated by the particular stories I've been telling. I'd established Katie as a very down-to-earth, practical person, so when I introduced her mother, I thought I'd get a lot more comedy out of making her mother be the total opposite and be somewhat flighty and histrionic. With Sophie, a key part of her personality is her feeling obligated to take care of people, and that was a huge part of the situation she found herself in, so I had to give her a very clingy, dependent mother who was willing to let her daughter take care of her. I wouldn't have had as much story if her mom had been more compatible with her. This has barely shown up in the books yet, but I have this whole mental backstory about Mari, Michael's police partner, who ended up moving in with her mother and paying rent so her mother could stay in her home in the very expensive New York real estate market, and we have the case of two very strong-willed women, one very traditional and one very much not, living under one roof and driving each other insane. I do break the pattern in the upcoming steampunk book, where my heroine had a good relationship with her mother. It's her father who's the problem, for plot reasons.

4) I tend to write nice, boy-next-door guys. I've never seen the appeal of the bad boy, either in real life or in fiction, so this isn't a character I'm drawn to writing. I get so tired of all the so-called "alpha" men who are basically jerks. Since I'm not writing genre romance where the conflict between hero and heroine is the core of the story and instead am doing the "you and me against the world" story where they're taking on some other conflict together, I think I can get away with having a more low-key guy. I did try to add a little more "alpha" to Michael in the Fairy Tale series by making him a cop, but then I turned around and made him so much a straight arrow that it's become something he's teased about as a cop. I think I've somewhat moved away from the "Best Friend" archetype in the steampunk book, but it's hard to say more there because these guys aren't quite exactly what they seem to be. I do have a story planned with a hero who's more of a charming rogue type, but we'll see how he shapes up once I actually start writing him.

5) I seem to write about New York a lot, and again, that's not something I actually set out to do. I've written books in other settings, but they haven't sold. I guess I think of New York as some kind of magical fantasy realm. You expect to see strange stuff just around the corner. I can't imagine the same thing about Dallas. I ended up setting the steampunk book there, too, because I was using an alternate version of the Gilded Age for a setting, so I needed those Fifth Avenue mansions and the whole social set, contrasted with the tenements. But after this series, I do have ideas for an alternate world "traditional" fantasy, an alternate world whose setting is more or less Not!London, and something set in the English countryside. I have an inkling for a paranormal mystery series set in central Texas, so that would be a switch.

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