Wednesday, September 14, 2011

RTW: Deja Vu All Over Again

It's a perfectly timed Road Trip Wednesday!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic: What themes, settings, motifs, scenes, or other elements do you find recurring in your work?
I actually learned a lot about my favorite recurring elements when I focused on short stories at the end of this summer, because suddenly I had a much larger sample size of my writing. Patterns definitely started to emerge.

Generally my stories fall into three categories, which I already talked a bit about here:

--Stories narrated by an adult for whom life is like a messed up psychological experiment.

-- Tales of typical teens dealing with annoying supernatural intrusions into their lives. The protagonists are never the supernatural beings, but they find themselves caught up in the problems of others.

-- Brief, atmospheric pieces about dark happenings in a fantasy or folklore world.

There are also quirks and motifs that seem to cross over all three:

-- My narrators are often exasperated about something. Apparently I like writing speech/thoughts with a humorous edge of annoyance.

--Back when I was studying Renaissance lit in grad school, my friends joked that I was obsessed with beheadings and cannibalism. Looking at some of my recent stories, apparently they were right. I grew up thinking I hated the horror genre, and I still don't think I'll ever be a writer of straight horror, but oh my do I have some dark tendencies in my writing.

--I still tend to avoid romance in my stories, including the YA ones. I apparently dislike being marketable.

--Judging by this blog post, I repeat the word apparently a lot.

Focusing on short stories has taught me a lot about the rhythm of my writing as well. Even when I change the voice and tone of my writing to match different characters or atmospheres, there are stylistic elements that remain 90% of the time: repetition, alliteration, and one-line paragraphs that work like punchlines to complete or reverse the previous paragraph. 

Like this. 

Often the repetition and punchline paragraphs are purposeful fragments, which I find strange and hilarious since I teach grammar and am rather obsessed with correct sentence structure and punctuation in my non-creative writing. 

I mentioned that this post topic was perfectly timed for me, and that's because I finally started submitting my summer stories to magazines and journals. YAY! Just like crafting the stories helped me hone the writing skills I'll need when I return to novels, the submission process is forcing me to practice some very necessary skills: editing obsessively, writing (a briefer form of) a query letter, and waiting, waiting, waiting...

What repeated themes, motifs, etc. do you find in your own writing?


  1. I use "apparently" so much that I had to assign that quirk to one character and make a note not to let any others use it. LOL

  2. I'm not a huge fan of romance either. I mean, I like being in love and all, but I'm so SICK of love triangles. There's a teensy romantic love element to my current WIP, but mostly it's the familial kind of love I focus on. :)

  3. Definitely. I was tired of love triangles even before they became The Next Big Thing, and I never ever plan to write one.

    (Jillian pauses to bookmark this post in case she has to eat her words somewhere down the line)

    Seriously though, I prefer to write about friendships and family too. If there is a romantic relationship, it's probably going to grow out of a friendships (or a sassy love-hate relationship, because those are fun too) and I'm always going to be more interested in the other elements of the story.

  4. I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't get turned on by two guys fighting over a romantic interest. I love the bit of grotesque you've got working for you with the beheadings and all. (Although I myself have never found a place for beheadings in my stories.)

  5. But there's always room for more beheadings! Ok, fine, maybe not.

  6. "I still tend to avoid romance in my stories, including the YA ones. I apparently dislike being marketable." This cracked me up. I can't really relate because I love to write romance, but I love your comment all the same. :)

    Have you read REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly? I just finished it (it was excellent!) and it was FULL of beheadings. I tend to favor the dark stuff too, so I was all about it!

  7. Oooh, I have not. Thanks for the recommendation! European historicals are always good for bloody and symbolic deaths.

  8. I love to have the romance piece in my writing, but not the "I might be in love 50 different people and you'll have to wait until the last page to find out whom I will choose." I tend to have a 1 boy focus.
    I am very similar to you as I also tend to repeat and style my writing in a way to add the emotion.
    You love the word apparently and I'm a fan of the ....
    Go figure!

  9. I am definitely addicted to ellipses too, though mostly just in emails and on the blog...I think.

  10. Hahaha! And your writing definitely has great voice, if your blog posts are this great. That's awesome that you've written enough shorter stories that you can step back and see patterns emerge. So cool!