Monday, November 7, 2016

My Favorite Elements to Write (And Read)

    Oh look...it's another post I wrote months and months ago but never published because I just kept tweaking it and tweaking it into oblivion (as you can tell by the links to super-old posts!). Anyway, it's about time this has seen the light of day.

      I have a theory.

     My theory is that all writers have a subtle (or at times not-so-subtle) theme, message, or motif that somehow winds its way into every book they write. I don't even think it's intentional—I think it's that little "something,” that little piece of us—that slips into each book and links them together just as much as our “voice” or style of writing does.

     If I was to name one principle that forms in the background of my stories, I believe it would be that of truth (surprise, surprise ;). This is more prominent in some of my stories than in others, but it’s always there, even if it’s only in my motivation for writing the story in the first place. Sometimes it manifests itself in the actual events in the novel—such as a revelation about an event or a character (such as in Hidden Pearls)—or most often, it’s simply that the story as a whole is used to illuminate a certain truth I see in life (as in For Elise).

     But there are other, seemingly less important or consequential things that also link my stories together. Some elements are just fun for me to write, or they come into my writing naturally without me realizing it. There are certain things I’m drawn to. So, inspired by Christine’s post and this writing prompt, I thought I’d talk about my favorite elements and storytelling devices that always end up worming their way into my plots—with or without me realizing it. In addition, they are also my favorite things to find in stories I'm reading or watching.

Hidden Identities.

     Pretty much every one of my stories to date has this. (which, strangely enough, I didn’t notice until recently). Whether it’s people who are not who they seem, characters hiding their past or in disguise, or even people who are cursed (like the beast in The Wulver's Rose), there’s always one character with some sort of secret or hidden identity.

Friendship

     Friendship often gets the short shaft next to romance these days, to the point where most people don’t seem to know what to do with the real thing when they see it and so claim that such relationships must be in some way “romantic.” I never set out with some grand plan to validate friendship, but close relationships between friends and siblings—and yes, even friendship between couples that later turn romantic—always end up playing a large part of my stories.

Teamwork

     Speaking of friendship, I have a huge weakness for reading/writing about large groups of people thrown together and forced to rely on each other. The Avengers, The Fellowship of the Ring—people with vastly different backgrounds, ethnicities, and motivations who have to work together for a common goal will always appeal to me. This hasn’t played a large role in my stories that have been published as of now, but most of my unfinished science fiction and fantasy works play with this idea quite a bit. Misfit groups are the tops.

Sacrifice

     People willing to give up everything, even their very lives, for the people they love will always move me. In fact, I haven’t written as much on this topic as I’d like because it is a little intimidating to me, since I want it done right.

Villains

     Probably six times out of ten, I find that the villains are always easier for me to write about than the heroes, probably because I can really exploit their flaws. I love a good, complex villain and I love writing their scenes. Also, I write a lot of female villains for some reason. Not intentionally, but it is something that I’ve noticed.


Duty

     I feel like duty has become a bit of a bad word in today's society. We're told we should do what's best for us, even if it means shirking our responsibilities. As a Christian, I don't think our goal in life is to search for our own happiness--we are to glorify God. And sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) that means putting aside our own desires so that we can pursue His will. Coming to terms with one's duty (and in a way, going back to the sacrifice theme) whether it's to family, country, or God, also tends to wind its way into my stories. 

First Person Point of View

     This is not what I do most often, or even what I like to read the most. But doggone it, I find that it’s a lot easier and more natural for me to write in first person. Most of my stories are in third person, and they have to be due to multiple POVs and storytelling needs. (And there’s nothing I hate more than reading a first-person narrative that should have been third person). But first person is easier for me to write, and I do think it’s beautiful when done well (Jane Eyre, for instance, would not be the same without it). In any case, at least portions of my stories often end up being told in first person.

Dancing

     I don’t even know how, but half of my stories have at least one dancing scene, and many times more than one. Balls are just great environments for catastrophes, major revelations, and even action scenes. Don’t ask me why. (Then again, because I do English country dancing and actually attend a couple of balls a year, it might just be art imitating life. Or life imitating art, too, now that I think of it. I've been writing about it longer than I've been doing it).

Gloomy, dark settings....or bright and airy ones

     There is no in-between with me. I blame this one on the fact that two of my favorite books are The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Anne of Green Gables. My stories are usually inspired by either the smoky, darkly elegant aspects of Victorian London, or they are filled with the bright and chipper atmosphere of the Edwardian countryside. It's Agatha Christie versus Jane Austen; L.M. Montgomery against Edgar Allan Poe. This tends to spill over into my reading preferences, too.

Strong Family Relationships

     Despite my mom's complaints that I'm a mother-killer (blame it on the Disney movies, Mom!) I do like writing strong relationships between families. Actually, I'm not sure if it's an issue of "liking" to write about it--I'm simply blessed with a close-knit family, so such relationships just seem to naturally appear in my writing. Family dynamics (including not-so-happy family relationships) tend to be an important part of my stories. 


What are your favorite things to read and write about?
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