Tag: writing traps

Authors’ Pet Themes and Characteristics: when they repeat too often

I have noticed that many career novelists have certain themes that they explore over and over again and sometimes it becomes irritating.  Martha Grimes was the first author I really noticed this with and got annoyed with.  Philip pointed it out to me and once I saw it I couldn’t unsee it and after reading her 84th mystery novel I became exhausted.  She loves her characters to be orphans.  Orphan characters (both main and supporting characters) are everywhere in her books.

Either she was an orphan herself and this was a defining factor in her life OR she had issues with her parents that has made her fantasize about what that might be like.

Mary Stewart is obsessed with grey colored eyes.  This is not a usual color of eye being not really blue.  Every single suspense book she’s written features, at minimum, one character with grey eyes.  I gave them to Cricket in homage to her.  It’s so unusual that it becomes ridiculous for her books to be littered with grey-eyed people.

Those are just two examples off the top of my head.  I’m thinking about this because I have had Jane Doe haunting my head relentlessly lately (probably exacerbated by my recent trips to San Francisco where her story takes place) and trying to sort out how to move forward with that story and comparing it to Cricket and Grey I have noticed some themes of my own.  It concerns me.  I’m not going to say what they are.  Not to be coy or anything – but if you end up reading my work and if I continue to produce novels and you follow my “career” I don’t want to point anything out to you that might annoy you.  That would be stupid.  If you notice them – then you do.  If you don’t – much better.

More important to me is to AVOID that whole pitfall.  Inevitably, if you write a few novels then your characters are going to have same eye colors -there are only so many to choose from before you get ridiculous in making up things like “opal” and “tourmaline” colored eyes.  “Topaz” got excessive play in the Twilight series.  You can’t avoid reusing elements and certain themes that are common – you have to have common things in a story to make it believable so that the extraordinary details stand out.

So I was just thinking about some similar elements shared between my two stories and considering what I can change and what I can’t.  By the same token – you can’t obsess about stuff like this.   I’m aiming for consciousness of the potential to become repetitive with the need to tell stories that are natural for me to tell.

I wish Jane Doe would get out of my head.  I finally got a solid rough outline for the plot for the next Cricket and Grey book and I’d like to develop it but the other story is loud in my head too.  The problem is that I just can’t seem to make order out of it.  So it’s there – being a big noise – trying to draw me into the tangle so that I can give it better shape.

On another note – it’s becoming clear that I won’t be able to get Cricket and Grey available for actual sale until after the holidays.  That always happens – I miss the holiday potential because I got unfocused for too long and then suddenly woke up when it was too late. It’s okay though.  It is better to have a good cover and a good copy than to rush it.

Here’s the other thing I’m worrying about.  It’s not new.  If I publish Cricket and Grey myself but want to shop Jane Doe to agents – will they not even consider Jane Doe because I’ve already self published?  I know I’ve seen agents say they won’t take query letters from self published authors – I just can’t remember if I’ve seen that once or quite a few times.

Time for me to get back to the paid job.  I just want to jot these kinds of thoughts down more often in my writing journal rather than let them stay in my head.  No editing either.  Consider this a post you would jot down in your notebook and then bring up with your friends in a casual way.