The Common Threads Running Through Our Stories


What common threads run through your fiction?

I think about this from time to time, but have been thinking about it especially now, given my writing schizophrenia. I’m still bouncing from story to story, trying to figure out which one I really want to work on now, and in doing so, I noticed that even though my stories are pretty different from one another (a mystery, two contemporaries, and a fantasy, plus the myriad of half-baked ideas), there are some common threads that run through each one.

All of my stories feature:

  • An awkward female protagonist
  • A close-knit group of people who are not a traditional family (sometimes known as a “found family”) and the changing dynamics of said group as time goes on
  • Sexual tension between said female protagonist and a boy (or two)
  • A Catholic upbringing, or something analogous to that, and the fraught-ness that comes along with that
  • A mansion or chateau or castle
  • A connection to nature, be it a forest or field or beach
  • A love of reading

Why do these things appear in my stories over and over while other things don’t? Why don’t I write about gangsters, or mother-daughter relationships, or botanists?

When considering this question, I always go back to this quote from Stephen King. He’s talking about why he writes horror, in his brilliant On Writing:

“I was built with a love of the night and the unquiet coffin, that’s all. If you disapprove, I can only shrug my shoulders. It’s what I have.”

It’s what I have.

I do not have a love of “the unquiet coffin”. What have is: a childhood spent with friends who were like family, played out in the setting of Catholic schools and backyards and beaches. An adolescence and early adulthood filled with more awkwardness than I care to remember, particularly when it came to behavior around the opposite sex. A love of books and huge old buildings (like this one.)

So that is where my mind goes when it comes time to create my own worlds. It’s what I have.

What about you? Do you have certain things that you’re drawn to in fiction, be it fiction you write or fiction you read? What are they? I’d love to know!

Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

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