Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How To Tell It's A Zeleznik

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk while my roommate was teaching her class and a discussion about theme came up with her class. She brought me into the discussion and asked me if, when I write, do I put themes in my work on purpose or do they develop independently? It's an outstanding question that I paused and thought about it for a moment. The words of another colleague came to mind, "No writer worth their salt puts something in their work on accident." (I'm paraphrasing a bit as I don't remember the exact quote from him.) And that is true...sort of. I responded to my roommate that they do get put in there on purpose though you don't often realize that you are putting them in there until after you've finished a draft or two, which is how I usually can pick up on my themes, which, in the course of this brief discussion, I realized I explored many of the same themes in all of my works (I know, all unpublished but someday dammit!) and I realized what I was talking about is motifs.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word motif means "a usually recurring salient thematic element (as in the arts)." It's one of my favorite literary words because it the motifs a writer uses in their work reveals as much about the writer as they do what they write. This is great self analysis I suppose though I'm probably too close to the subjects to comment on them, but looking across all the crap (and until some editor deems that I am the genius that I think I am, I'm calling my stuff crap) that I've written, I've picked up on some motifs and elements that would identify me as the writer:

  1. Bonds of friendship between men: Okay this one is in just about everything I write no matter what the genre and I KNOW it's one that I play with and explore. Henry V is my favorite Shakespeare play and it's one of the major themes of that play and it's crossed over into all of my work, from my trunk novel The Falling Dark to my Seasons of Destiny books to the novella I'm working on now, the friendships between guys is an important theme. 
  2. Children paying for the sins of their parents: Mostly sons paying for their father's transgressions but there's other examples in their too. It really is one of the major themes of  Seasons of Destiny and I definitely put it in Sisters of Khoda as well. I know that I want to tell a Jaiman story revolving around some mistake his father made as well somewhere down the line. 
  3. Trees: It might have been the fact that a tree took my first two teeth when I was younger, it might be that I'm fascinated with the power and mystique of them, but in all of my work trees take a central role. From the "witchwoods" in Seasons to the grotto in Sisters, there's a lot of thematic importance to trees.
  4. Betrayal: As a writer of fantasy, betrayal is my bread and butter to be quite honest, but it's an important part of all my stories, even my self indulgent attempts at contemporary fiction.
 I'm sure there are more, but these seem to be the ones that my stories revolve around and make my fiction move. They are the things I'm probably trying to reconcile within myself and using my fiction to self-analyze and self-therapy-ize my own issues.

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