As a writer, I’m always excited about the blank page: a fresh start, a new beginning. A place to put down those words and scenes that crowd each other in my head. While that new work could be a new book, a new short story, or a new article, it doesn’t really matter. What’s exhilarating is the idea that we can create something that someone else hasn’t.
In checking over the top five movie and book titles for December in search of topics that might be of interest to my wonderful readers, I was delighted to see old themes and traditional characters emerge in those lists, especially since I expected to see absolutely nothing of interest to me there.
Working with traditional elements such as characters, worlds, and themes allows us to have an “instant” rapport with readers. I’m just tickled pink that the Hobbits have been discovered by so many new generations since I first read them in sixth grade (which was forever ago.) And how about the timeless tale of redemption and justice that viewers and readers of Les Miserables have enjoyed since 1862? A very similar movie thematically is Jack Reacher (Lee Child’s ONE SHOT), the anti-hero on the run, sucked in by his own humanity to help those who can’t help themselves, at great peril to himself. Granted, the cinematic effect for Reacher is managed by fast cars and lots of guns, but otherwise not tons of difference – and both captivating to their audience.
I often work with writers who are relatively new to fiction writing. Talented, hard-working, and passionate about delivering terrific stories to readers, they work so hard to create a “new, fresh, and unique” character/world/theme, that it often falls flat. Some have fabulous turns of phrase, others have such colorful characters I’m awed. But what I’ve come to realize is that all stories need elements that are familiar to us, even if they aren’t comfortable. A character’s struggle for redemption (personal or social) or a culture’s battle for survival are themes that will engage a reader from the start if the writing is passionate and clean, no matter when the story was/is written. The voice and style are the aspects that will set a writer’s work above the others, while traditional themes ground the reader in what they are cheering for. I wonder if identifying the theme of what we’re writing might not be a very good place to start. What do you think?
As storytellers and dream weavers, it may be a sacred duty to mix the old with the new so that new readers can relate to what us old writers know are important things to preserve.
Like love, courage, honor, and respect, and pushing on against the odds. Come to think of it, sounds as much like The Little Mermaid as it does Les Miserables!
I wish a terrific 2013 to you and your muse!