I think it's safe to say that the themes in our novels are reflective, somehow, of things deep within us. That which is important to us; that which stirs us; that which has changed us at some point.
One of my biggies is betrayal.
At seventeen, I loved a boy as though my immortal soul depended on it. He was the ringleader of the questionable gang I was adopted into after my best friend and I had a falling out. I yearned silently for months until, finally, right after Thanksgiving of my senior year, the Boy took me on a date, told me his feelings for me had grown past friendship, and kissed me like I'd never been kissed before.
The next day, I could barely remember to breathe. Every time I thought of him, my stomach plummeted. I had little appetite and no ability to do anything. I was lovesick--for real. When he finally appeared late in the afternoon to say his good-byes (he'd been home from college for the weekend), I melted into his arms, aching that I had to be parted from him so soon.
My parents hated him. Truth be told, he wasn't a good Boy. To his credit, he did tell me that he was also seeing a girl at college. It wasn't like this was some big love affair; at least, not for him. I was okay with that. I'd loved him silently for months; I could wait a few months more for him to realize that I was the One.
Sure enough, he broke up with the gal at college. And professed his love to me.
That's right. He said, "I love you." Girls don't imagine things like that.
Long distance relationships are hard, though, and whenever he was home for a weekend, I was too insecure to simply be myself. At Christmas, I was afraid to buy him the wrong gift. Around the rest of the gang, I was afraid to show my affection for him. When we sat on the sofa in my parents' living room, I didn't know how to drum up conversation.
It was all too big, and he was wrong for me. Of course, I couldn't see that. Every heartbeat was for him. Every weekday was another "X" on the calendar until I would see him again.
He grew steadily bored with me. As I saw the fire in his eyes slowly melt, I felt like a complete failure. As in, I-don't-even-know-how-to-make-my-boyfriend-stay-in-love-with-me. Still, I clung to him.
Summer came. I don't know how it happened, but a gal-I-didn't-like-much was sort of grafted into our gang. A Cheerleader (clearly, my life was a cliche). Once, she hung with them when I wasn't there. She later asked me if the Boy and I were still together.
What she meant, of course, was, "I think the Boy is hot, and if you'll just step aside, I think I'd like to take him."
Truth was, the Boy and I weren't doing very well. But I wasn't going to tell that to this cheerleader with a reputation for coming to school with hickeys on her neck. So I lied.
It was only a half-lie. Because I still deeply loved the Boy.
The rumors started. "Boy and Cheerleader have been together. We saw them."
I had to know the truth. Cheerleader lived walking distance from my house. One afternoon, when I knew the Boy had off from his job as a lifeguard, I drove to Cheerleader's house.
The Boy's car was parked outside.
I wanted to smash his windshield. Or kill myself. Or something else epic. He was with her, and he wasn't even trying to hide it.
The betrayal left an indelible mark. I was grown and married before I finally worked through it. Let it go.
But since then, betrayal is the one thing that will wreck me. And it's the hardest thing for me to forgive.
(I do forgive. I believe in living a life of forgiveness. But betrayal is the hardest.)
So it's no surprise that this shows up in my novels. Whether it's a real or a perceived betrayal, the raw emotions come easily as I write. I know what betrayal feels like. I know its power. And for me, in stories, it really works.
It's not the only raw material I have to work with. (How boring would that be?) But it definitely comes more easily. And when we reach deep inside ourselves to produce the emotions and ideas and circumstances in our novels, we're touching what's real. And I believe that's what makes stories resonate with readers.
That's me, really.
What about you?
Ah, yes. I believe we write from our own experiences. I was always the outcast in school, the "freaky girl" with purple hair. I wrote angst-filled poetry and short stories and was frequently in the principal's office "for an attitude adjustment." So most of my main characters are considered outcasts whether it's a faerie who is half-human (LORE OF FEI/WAR OF FEI), a girl who feels "invisible" because she's not a size zero (HOW TO BE ALMOST FAMOUS IN TEN DAYS) or a boy who doesn't want to be king (FITZROY: THE BOY WHO WOULD BE KING). Every single one of my characters is different from the "norm" and the theme of the majority of my books is how to find your own identity or voice. Something I struggled with for years. Thanks for the post, sorry for your betrayal but a great post!ReplyDelete
Twenty years ago I was engaged to a man whose sister was dying. When I first met him he was immediately attracted to me because of how much I was like her, not in looks but in personality and attitude. He was a wonderful person, but our relationship was tumultuous. We brought out the worst in each other. It didn't occur to me until years later that the animosity he showed towards me was tied to his attraction for me. In some bizarre way, he couldn't forgive me for being healthy while his sister while his sister had one lupus flare after another. In fact, the one time he was the most loving was when I was in the hospital after a car accident and for the next two weeks after when I was recovering. When I was healthy and enjoying life, he resented me.ReplyDelete
My latest novel is based on premise of that relationship. After 20 years, I figured there's enough distance for me to have some objectivity while writing it. Also, I never got the chance to say goodbye to his sister, and the novel gave me the chance to bury her and finally have some closure.
This is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing and I can't wait to see this experience reflect in your books.ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing. Been there too.ReplyDelete
I was just involved in a discussion about themes and how the same ones can appear in our writing over and over again. One woman said she'd been writing books with the same theme for 30 years - "You don't have to be afraid". Which, to be fair, is an AWESOME theme.ReplyDelete
My themes always end up revolving around family. Even when i start out with something different, at the end it always seems to come back to that, to find people who love you no matter what.
It's fascinating how the themes we write about seemed to be evoked by our own early turning points.ReplyDelete
Wow, you write so vividly and powerfully about your teen experience. Just reading that, I really felt for your teen self, and also vividly recalled my own teen first loves and let-downs. <3ReplyDelete
Being able to tap into those emotions and experiences and express them meaningfully is a wonderful thing. <3
Wow. What a fricassee. Thank you so much for sharing.ReplyDelete
I had a best friend all through middle school. She was tall, skinny, and blonde, I wasn't any of the above.ReplyDelete
All the boys wanted her. I fell into the role of the cool bff they hung w/ to get close to her.
In 9th grade, I made the mistake of introducing her to a crush of mine. He was funny and not at all her type.
They began dating behind my back. I didn't find out for weeks.
And granted, he was never mine to claim, she could have had any guy, but she picked the one I liked. And what hurt worse than that was that she did it behind my back.
There wasn't a big blow out. I was hurt so I just stopped hanging out with her. 2 years later I moved away.
Through fb, many years later, I found out she married that same boy and had 2 kids with him.
It helped me see that specific situation through different eyes. She was my best friend and she really fell in love and I was too selfish to forgive her.
And it's funny b/c I didn't realize until now that my current WIP has a bff betrayal that still leaves you caring about the bff. My subconscious must have added those elements. I really hadn't thought about that betrayal in years!
I could relate with this post (I guess I say it for every of your post I leave a comment on.ReplyDelete
There is always a bit of a writer's soul in every of their works (that's cliche but true).
My current WIP is still in the outlining stage but I already know how it'd go. And it comes from an experience I had last year with a guy I dated for just one month. I moved on and started dating someone else but the memories of our relationship still linger in my head. I guess by writing my WIP I'll give it some closure...and even though my WIP is fantasy, the theme will revolve around loving what you can't have.
I think we lived parallel lives. I did the same thing with my first boyfriend. Completely unable to be myself, or anything close to an engaging New adult and he did the same thing, found someone with a personality they were willing to share. Although I haven't used that particular event in my writing I have used experiences I have been through. The tough part about doing that is when a CP or some blog contest participants comment on the event. I get so many comments saying "no one would act like that" . Then I'm like WHAT?! I did that. I acted like that. Was I responding wrong. :) It certainly becomes therapy for the issues we drum up.ReplyDelete
My current WIP stemmed from being upset at my husband. Since the authorities frown on actually killing your husband when he makes you mad- I did it in a story.ReplyDelete
It was started out as a paragraph joke to a friend and now has turned into half a novel.
I'd say my biggest themes are:ReplyDelete
No matter how drastically different the plots are of all my WIPs, (wipesses? lol) anyways, despite them having totally different plots, my heroines and heros seem to either be preoccupied with things that are their fault -- or alternatively, sometimes they are oblivious and have to come to terms with their far reaching careless actions. I see a lot of myself in this theme, but it's something really important to me and something I struggle with so I think writing it down and giving it meaning helps me deal with this trait of heavy self criticism within myself.
I put my characters through a lot of crap, and a lot of times it's crap someone else does to them that they don't deserve. They have a lot of anger/pain. But I always try to help them find peace and forgiveness towards the people they love, and even towards those they hate. Again this is something I strive for in my own life. It is a struggle sometimes.
-The importance and power/saving grace of strong friendship
This one probably speaks for itself. I'm so grateful to have met so many people who really care.
-Marrying darkness with beauty
I didn't realize I did this until your post, but after looking at my stuff, I realized this is major for me. I think some people see the glass half empty or half full, and I tend to just see water with dust particles in it...yet the water is also sparking, glinting with light streaming in through the window. I tend to see things mixed together, in every area of my life. Like there is this one scene in my WIP where there's a cottage lit up in a blizzard. Or flowers in the Underworld. I'm not sure how else to explain it, sorry haha, I probably sound silly! Basically I can't ignore negative things, but I also find great satisfaction out of the positive ones. And apparently that shows in my writing.
Sorry for writing a book of a comment, very intriguing post!
Love the vulnerable honesty in this post. my writing often revolves around unrequited love. Being desperately in love with someone who doesn't love you back. And the grand desire to be able to teleport because of having to move soooo much growing up. I still wish I could teleport as I have an hour and fifteen minute commute to work.ReplyDelete
When I read this earlier today, I realized right away that the two novels I've written in the last few years have very different concepts, but both end up exploring spirituality, near-death experiences, and glimpses of the afterlife. But I couldn't see how this related to my real life experiences particularly.ReplyDelete
Then later this afternoon I had a sudden realization: mid-life, children growing up, facing my own mortality ... Duh.
MadHatWriter, I love your "marrying darkness with beauty"--doesn't sound silly at all!
Aw, thanks sgf. It is the plague of writers to worry we're not explaining ourselves right.ReplyDelete
Your epiphany about facing your own mortality is super interesting, the concepts you explore in your novels sounds like something I would totally love to read!
Authoress always manages to make me take a second look and then I have "woah!" or a "...duh." moment as you put it! Haha.
I love this community, ya'll rock
I tend to write about characters that are lost, disillusioned, directionless...kind of like me! I guess I'm hoping they'll give me the answers.ReplyDelete
Cliches aside, this is a great story. Thanks for sharing your heart with us. Totally agree that what you hold deep within you is what you tend to write about. Just recently I´ve discovered that many of my characters actually represent people from my real life. Either that or they represent situations that I haven´t fully integrated or gotten rid of. For me it´s a sense of justice and putting things in their right place, and all my stories have to do with being a part of a family. The father figure is also continually present--or absent as in real life. As the old adage states: we right what we know about.ReplyDelete
i love this post, how true it is.ReplyDelete
Good post. It is what we all experienced so I am sorry to see it wrapped you up. I mean teenage love is intense but it is as reliable as the penny stock tips. We all went through the same thing - actually more than once.!ReplyDelete
The most obvious one for me is emotion. Yes, of course, emotions are in every novel, but I mean emotion as a theme, emotion as something explored specifically. I think it has something to do with my own struggles with emotion. I hate mine and I love mine. Another thing about my writing that a friend actually pointed out to me is inner conflict between two extremely contradictory forces, usually head and heart.ReplyDelete
I'm sorry about your betrayal, but it seems you've healed enough to move on from it and write about it. Power to you.
A teenage boy who had the hots for a cheerleader is your life mission because he didn't like you as much as Miss Shake her pants? Authoress, dear God.....grow up. If Ya now means stunted emotional growth because someone gave you a boo boo when you you were 16 then shame on you.ReplyDelete