City of Nethra

Official Site of Melanie Atkinson Books

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Themes

Now that summer is nearly spent, most of my children are back in school, and life is getting back into a routine, I'm trying to stick to a writing schedule. I'm still working out the details since I have my youngest still at home and I'm a bit beholden to her whims and needs at times, but there's definitely more writing in the works.

For the last year, I've been working on another side project besides the third book in the Birthstone Trilogy (still deciding on a title for that one). It's become a real obsession for me because, not only do I love the characters, story, and plot so much, but I love the world it takes place in. Yes, it's another fantasy- I tend to take every opportunity to visit other worlds as often as possible because it's really the only traveling I get to do- and though it's a stand alone novel, I have so many other ideas for that world and the people living there.
One of the themes I've noticed in this newest book (which is close to being complete!) and other book ideas I've outlined is how much they center around the earth's natural resources. Sea Dweller and Heiress center mostly around gems, I have a rough outline of a couple books that center around specific minerals, and most of all, I have so very many ideas that center around plants.

I didn't realize this until I started looking at the reoccurring themes in many of my plot outlines and current works in progress, but when I thought about it, it made sense that they would show up in my books.

From the time I was a child, I loved rocks. Yeah, yeah, lots of kids do. I know. But to this day, I still have tons of enthusiasm for agates (nothing is more fun than beach combing, I tell you!) and unique stones. I study their lines and marks and wonder where they've been, what they've seen, and how long they've been in existence. I was incredibly jealous when my dad visited my favorite beach for agate hunting for the first time and found one of the biggest, most beautiful agates I'd ever seen in all my years of going there. I may have even insisted he leave it to me in his will. . . .

After I got married, I began to garden. I became fascinated with the idea of planting a single, tiny tomato seed and producing a plant taller than myself laden with fruit. It was the closest thing I could get to what seemed like real magic. I'd start with what seemed like nothing and by the end of the season, I'd have more produce than I knew what to do with. The different varieties, unexpected colors, and odd shapes of pumpkins, tomatoes, melons, squash, carrots, and beans I could grow still never gets old. It's made stories like Jack in the Beanstalk so fun for me. . . there's always the question of "What will come from planting this seed? What kind of magic will I see this year?" There's so much faith involved in nurturing and caring for plants and the rewards can be so abundant.

I've seen similar themes in the works of other authors I admire and in many whose works I don't particularly care for and it always tells me something about them. One of the writers I love often incorporates types of stitchery and knitting in her young adult fantasy novels and lo and behold, she's a knitter. Another favorite author includes many embarrassing and awkward moments for her characters that keep the reader laughing and feeling humiliated right along with the character. When you read that authors blog, she sometimes shares her own awkward experiences and admits to having them regularly enough to keep her stories filled with them. Many writers incorporate their faith into their books, even if it's subtle (I've done that too) and others incorporate their worst fears. Many inject hints of their own weaknesses, their fantasies, their hopes, their trials.

My point is that most writers really ARE their books, and I'm reminded of this every time I reread some piece of fiction I've written. I end up seeing so much of who I am within the pages of my book and it's a bit nerve wracking. There's never any intent to bare my heart in the stories that I write, but it always manages to show up whether I want it there or not.

Everything a writer puts into their story tells something about them. If you want to truly know more about your favorite author, skip the bio and continue to read his or her stories to get a deeper look into that writer's mind. That's why rejection and negative reviews become so personal for writers. They've carefully selected and painstakingly cut out pieces of who they are, what they've seen and experienced, and inserted them within the pages of their books. The part of a story that seems like it's there just to move the plot along to the next scene- chances are it came from something that happened to the writer. One character's annoying quirk- it's likely the author knew someone with the same habit and it stuck with them somehow.

In my next book, the main character is mute. My physical ability to talk has never been a challenge for me, but I can tell you I didn't draw the mc's emotions and struggles from some made-up place. I've experienced what it's like to not be heard- to feel soundless and overlooked and without a voice, even if the ability to speak was physically there all along. I've known other's who have been voiceless, both emotionally and physically and by observing their experiences, even internalizing them at times, how I see things had changed and added to the structure of my character.

So, the next time you breeze through a really great novel, or force yourself through one that isn't your cup of tea, it might be worthwhile to look for hints of who the author may be, what they may have experienced, the strange little oddities and experiences hidden away within the themes and pages of the story. Not only can it let a reader know if that writer is a good match for him or her, a kindred spirit, and worth personally investing in, but sometimes it makes it possible to find hidden nuggets of wisdom and experience that are easy to overlook in the search for entertainment.  And those have been the parts of a story that have remained with me long after the rest of the book has faded from memory.




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