Friday, January 21, 2011

Writing Motifs

Hannah Bowman recently challenged me (sort of) to talk about motifs that crop up in my fiction. Unfortunately, I haven't written as much fiction as she has, which makes it harder for me to pinpoint what continually shows up in my stories. I can pinpoint one major motif, which isn't quite as specific as Hannah's, but I'm going to run with it.

The theme is transformation. The process of change, whether it's physical or mental or spiritual or social, fascinates me. How do we deal with change in ourselves? How do we deal with change in others? How are we spurred to change? Getting at the root of those questions drives both my reading and my writing. My plot bunnies frequently have transformation in them as well. I think I was fated to write urban fantasy as a result of this. There's so much potential in the genre to talk about change and how it affects people.

There's also the cousin theme of self-discovery. Every time we have to face change, face difference, and deal with it, we learn more about our selves. And of course, there's the age-old story of the person discovering their destiny, and the equally old story of the person have their dreams realized. I've always wanted to know what Cinderella felt like after the wedding and how she dealt with being a princess.*

The first fiction I wrote was for school. When I was seven, I wrote a story about an artificial boy who needed to get a glass ball from a lake so that he could become real. Yes, I was shamelessly plagiarizing Pinocchio, and I knew it even then. Another story I remember writing, at fifteen, was about Miranda (from The Tempest) and her experiences after leaving the island with Ferdinand. I've forgotten just about everything else I wrote, though I do remember a writing assignment from grade seven that would probably qualify. We were given a set of drawings by Chris van Allsburg and told to write stories about them.

The first stories I wrote after high school were fanfiction, and because I was pretty raw as a writer and still figuring out a lot of things, they're really kind of horrible and embarrassing. But the fandoms I wrote in all had magic, superpowers, magical superpowers, and supernatural creatures.** The stories I wrote were split between ones where someone became supernatural/magical, and ones where someone had to face a truth and grow up. Sometimes it was the same person, in one story.

Then we get to The WIP and the other ideas I've had over the last few years. The WIP is essentially a superhero origin story. There's the gnostic urban fantasy that I've got knocking around in my head, which has a lot of physical transformation in it and a whole lot of social turmoil. There's the "UFO over 1750s London" idea, the "ghost detective" idea, the "theory of relativity a century sooner" idea***, the "first contact" idea, the "quasi-Matrix" idea, the other "first contact" idea….

As for small, more specific motifs, I don't think I'll be able to pinpoint any until I've written more. Although The WIP and the gnostic UF both feature forcefields, and I suspect geeky self-awareness will be a recurring feature too.

Are there any motifs in your stories?

* I haven't watched the Disney sequels. I imagine my own ideas play out better.
** No, I'm not telling you what they are.
*** Anyone want that one? The amount of research required for it scares me.


Brooke Johnson said...

you've inspired me to write a post about this on my blog... for Monday.

for snippets... i follow the Hero's Journey almost to a T in a lot of my writing - the whole death-and-rebirth motif. usually the theme of my stories are change, either by the main character or a sub-main character.. the death of their old selves and the birth of a new self. there is a lot of self-acceptance involved as well.

and good wins over evil. there's a lot of that in my stories.

great post Anassa, and like i said, i'll be copying you on Monday

Hannah said...

Awesome! That's, like, way deeper than any of my motifs are. :-)

Re: Cinderella sequels, there's a great YA by Margaret Peterson Haddix (I think) called Just Ella that deals with Cinderella's reaction to being a princess, and includes an awesome retelling of Cinderella, to boot.

Also, I want to read the "UFO over 1750s London" book. That sounds amazing. Please write it. :-)

Anassa said...

Excellent, Brooke! I look forward to your post. :) Somehow, with the series you did on your blog, I'm not surprised to learn you use the Hero's Journey a lot.

Hannah, I'm sure you've got deeper motifs too. Religion, maybe? The Cinderella recommendation's appreciated. I'll look into it. I'll write the UFO story someday, but the gnostic UF is coming first.

DL Fowler said...

I think change is a key part of any good fiction. It's essential to the Hero's Journey. So, yes, I strive for it in my writing, too.

One other thing I shoot for is to write the whole story from a limited POV.  I only want the reader to know what's inside the MCs' heads. I try to get my readers to yell at the MCs "Wait! You should be ..." 

I also describe my characters' physical reactions to emotions so my readers can feel the same thing in the depths of their souls. But again, I don't describe anything my MCs don't feel or see or hear. 

Hannah said...

OK, I went ahead and blogged about my themes too. It was too long for a comment. :-)