Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lather, rinse, repeat

When I drive to my mother in law's house, there are a series of stop signs and turns. Like, an abnormal amount. It's a well-planned residential neighborhood. And I always use my turn signal at each stop and turn, except one.

Without fail, I never manage to use to turn signal on the final turn.

I don't know why this is. I have even planned ahead and tried to program myself into doing it, only to suddenly develop a crippling paralysis in my turn-signal lever fingers. No matter what I do, I simply cannot put on my turn signal on the final turn. It's like the Groundhog Day of street turns. I didn't even notice I was doing this until one day when I was playing the Turn Signal Game, in which you consciously try to use your turn signal at every opportunity. (I realize this isn't really a game, nor does it remotely hold any actual excitement or fun. But I like to play little games.)

It reminded me that I am a creature of habit, and clearly I do things over and over. I recently found a summary for an older novel I wrote--one that, sadly, has not seen the light of day because of its grievous plot issues. And while I think I've come far since that novel and learned much, I still think the idea of the story is good, and may revisit to rewrite it.

So imagine my surprise in finding that the summary mentions the character's inner problem as being the exact same one as in my current WIP. That is to say, I've gone and managed to write the same problem with different characters and different stories.

I once read Anne Tyler say that she keeps writing the same story over and over, just in different ways--and she always thinks readers will call her out on it, but they don't. That always stayed with me. I think I do that, too. I guess I want to keep exploring different aspects of character emotions.

Some of the themes I tend to return to over and over again are: character taking off and escaping whatever it is that hurt her to some other locale, betrayal, finding oneself, and character growing strong after being weak.

Do you do this? Do you find yourself exploring the same themes over and over? If you don't think you do, give it some thought. Do some of your favorite authors do this?

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