Monday, January 31, 2011

Pondering Throughlines

A link to this interesting post landed in my mailbox this week:

The Pink and Blue Diaries: What’s Gender Got to Do with It?

I recommend reading it just for the exploration of gender issues. In the comments section, one poster explained that she tried to raise her children gender-neutral (gave the boy dolls and the girl toy cars), and the kids still followed gender stereotypes. Fascinating stuff.

But the main point of the post is throughlines: those themes and motifs that pop up repeatedly in our writing.

I don't usually worry about theme. I'm not trying to change the world with my writing, I just want to write stuff that's entertaining to read. But deeper meanings do creep in. For example, one of my first stories was about someone intensely focused on climbing the corporate ladder. In the end, it killed her (horrifically, of course). Moral of the story: too much ambition isn't a bad thing, lol.

After I read this article, I examined my work for recurring themes and motifs. One that jumped out right away was in my comedy pieces: the ridiculousness of the human condition (much ado about nothing; that's the real story of our lives). My humor pieces mock the day-to-day dramas, the pointless stuff we worry about, the idiotic things that beat us down, the wasteful things we get caught up in or obsessed with. Usually those throughlines are portrayed by a character from horror (a vampire having a mid-life crisis, a deity spilling his slushie on the machinery of the universe, things like that). Even though these protagonists are supernatural, they are also the "everyman" (or maybe that's part of it: even someone SUPER-natural falls victim to the natural whims and follies of human life).

A common theme that runs through many of my horror stories is "no matter how much we try to maintain control or plan for every contingency, there are always things beyond our control." That's a horror staple.

Common motifs in my work are water (I can't swim, so I'm afraid of water), caves (I love cave exploring), and unknown threats (creatures from outer space and from unexplored areas like polar ice or deep jungles).

Common motifs in King's works include crows, corn fields, and small towns.

What are some common throughlines and motifs in your work?

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