Elizabeth's discussion on 'voice' lead me to think of a related question:

Does anyone else worry sometimes that they might leaking too much of their unconscious onto the page through their writer's voice?

Critics love to analyse writers and filmmakers for recurring themes in their work - Hitchcock's obsession with the cool blonde, for example. I've noticed the link between memory and identity cropping up in a few of my stories, but maybe I've also accidentally aired some skeletons in my subconscious closet (don't worry, there's nothing bigger than a squirrel skeleton in there).

Are the ideas behind your stories always planned or have you spotted underlying themes cropping up of their own accord?

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I'm happy to let any of myself bleed onto the page if it makes a better story. That's what a writer is there for, I think. What else are you gonna do with that closet skeleton?

My advice? Don't hold back.
psycho mothers. i always have psycho mothers modeled after my own sweet mum.
I actually think some of my writing might be about wish fulfillment. And no, I'm not just talking about the murders.

But I think we can't help have some of us come through on the page, and that's actually part of why I think voice can't be taught. Each of us has our own unique experiences and perspective on things and that attitude seeps through, even in little ways.
A lot of my characters seem to have suffered some kind of crippling permanent damage, often psychological but just as often physical. I'm not sure what that means about me.

Strippers are also a recurring theme, or so my wife has noted.
You know, I'm having trouble remembering a good book that DIDN'T have strippers...
Dead girlfriends. Whatever storyline I think about, if I wait long enough, a dead or absent girlfriend will form there of her own accord. I think I'm just interested in ideas of loss and regret, and the fallout from them in whatever shape that might take. Personal fears of losing people, and so on.

I can live with it for now, but I do worry about repeating myself. I'm in the right genre for it, at least. The theme, I mean, not the repetition.
Thanks for referring to my discussion, Vincent. I think the short answer to that question is "Of course." The long answer for me is that I have to be very, very careful about what I disclose because I'm a shrink as well as a writer, and good boundaries are part of my stock in trade. On the other hand, I've lived long enough (cf the discussion on what someone called the geezer first novel or words to that effect), that sometimes I just say to hell with it and let 'er rip. And of course the whole issue is complicated by the nature of the Internet, where the veil between public and private is so very thin. Liz

Death Will Get You Sober (St. Martin's 2008)
Online therapist

(demonstrating the interface between disclosing and promoting one's work)
The link between memory and identity is also a strong theme in everything I write -- I don't plan it, it just happens. I also gravitate toward stories of dysfunctional families (as in, they want to kill each other and sometimes do). I will spare you all the deep, dark reasons that might lie beneath these predilections. I think each of us reveals something personal in our choices of theme and character. What else do we have to work with, after all, except our minds, memories, and personalities?
I ooze all over the page. It gets messy. Except for the chapter involving the Navy SEAL pastry chef and the trapeze artist. That chapter is totally birthed of my imagination.

You got to dance, dance, dance, like nobody's watchin'. It's the only way to get Truth on the page.
As for themes, I never start out with any in mind. Writing to themes is a slow and painful story death, IMO. If I notice a theme on third rewrite, and it seems to be working, I go with it. Otherwise, I leave explication of high ideas to people much smarter than I am.
To paraphrase Dorothy Sayers and Charlie, who cares, if it makes a good story? On the other hand, the same good story theme over and over again can wear out a series a' la Anne Perry.

Has she changed her theme in the ten years since I stopped reading her books?


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