Monday, September 20, 2010

Themes That Inspire

What particular themes in books inspire you as a reader?

And you aren't allowed to just say "love." That's too basic. I'll use it as a jumping off point, though! Let's think about love. Let's pretend you said "love." What KIND of love story inspires you?

Types of love, for instance

Forbidden love?

Unusual/unexpected attraction?

Dangerous/ill-advised attachment?

Unrequited love?


What's the point of this, you ask?

I think if you play this game with yourself you'll discover the threads and undercurrents that you can put into your own writing to give it that punch of genuine feeling that can breathe life into a work. So ask yourself, what speaks to you?

I actually want you to think about something other than love if possible, even though I mentioned it above. Dig deep; consider emotions that are more nuanced and less articulated in song and film and poetry. 

What speaks to me

I pondered this question recently, sifting through memories, favorite books, and childhood stories. A common theme emerged, and once I recognized it, I realized it made sense. I like stories about vindication.

vin·di·cate  (vnd-kt)
tr.v. vin·di·cat·ed, vin·di·cat·ing, vin·di·cates
1. To clear of accusation, blame, suspicion, or doubt with supporting arguments or proof: "Our society permits people to sue for libel so that they may vindicate their reputations" (Irving R. Kaufman).
2. To provide justification or support for: vindicate one's claim.
3. To justify or prove the worth of, especially in light of later developments.
4. To defend, maintain, or insist on the recognition of (one's rights, for example).
5. To exact revenge for; avenge.
I suppose this says a lot about me as a person, not to mention my childhood. C'est la vie.

(^ For clarification, I have provided the definition of the word according to The Free Dictionary. I highlighted my favorite bits, too.)

After I recognized my love of/need for vindication in literature and embraced it, I started trying to put pieces of it into every WIP. This injects emotion into my writing and motivates me to care more about the work.

What themes and emotions move you as a reader, and why?


  1. Here are my two:

    Culturally unacceptable love.

    Power and status, especially enormous differences in power/status between characters, and an exploration of what power and status mean. All spoiled rich kids are welcome.

  2. @Jaimie You definitely like both of those things as evidenced in your stories, yes :-)

    I am similarly interested in power, but to a lesser extent than you, I think.

  3. Friendship that turns into love is one of my favourites - it seems like it would last to me and that's important.

  4. Interesting question. I enjoy crime stories, and appreciate originality. The late great Tony Hillerman had an inspiring ability to create interesting characters and unique plots with his Navajo mystery series.

  5. @Jemi I like friendship-turned-love myself. It's like a double bond, and that intrigues me. I am also fascinated with the interplay between wanting the romantic relationship and perhaps being frightened to move forward and risk losing something you already have that's good. (I've been there personally ...)


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