Friday, July 21, 2006

Question for Patti--From Skylar

Morning Patti!

I recently read Stephen King's fabulous (almost autobiography) ON WRITING. In it he says one of the most important aspects to consider is theme, as in the way it makes the reader feel. Not only because it can open their eyes, but also to give them a momento to take away as a souvenir of sorts to implement in their lives. Did you have any specific messages you wanted to convey either via your settings, plot, or most importantly your characters? Did this speak to you personally--as in an issue you might have been dealing with/concerned about at the time? And have you ever had something come through in your novels that subconciously worked it's way in?

Thanks so much for sharing your insights with us!

3 comments:

Patti O'Shea said...

Wow, Skylar, this may be the toughest question I've ever been asked!

*Did you have any specific messages you wanted to convey either via your settings, plot, or most importantly your characters?

One of the main things I think I try to convey in my book is that nothing is stronger than love. I don't mean romantic love, just love in general. Love is stronger than hate, fear, anger, etc. I was pretty overt about this message in Ravyn's Flight and some people called the ending cheesy, so I've tried to be more subtle in my later books.

Another thing I try to convey is that people don't see themselves clearly. To continue with RF as the example, Ravyn thought she was a coward, it's only as the book reaches it's conclusion that she begins to question that assumption. No one else saw her this way. This is something else I've become more subtle about in later books.

Personal growth is a big theme for me too. I know we're supposed to have a character change and grow over the course of the book, but this is my number one reason for writing--watching the hero and heroine change enough to risk making themselves vulnerable with each other. I also tend to stress that this change doesn't happen overnight and that it requires work on the character's part.

I really like the concept of teamwork too, that the h/h are stronger working as a team than either of them is alone, but I'm not sure that counts as a theme.

*Did this speak to you personally--as in an issue you might have been dealing with/concerned about at the time?

Some of these themes are things I spent years working on in myself before I sold, but I think there's a universal quality to these items. I don't know how much reflects me in that moment. I didn't consciously do anything based on what I was personally experiencing at the time, but stuff could have crept in subconsciously.

*And have you ever had something come through in your novels that subconciously worked it's way in?

I really had to think about this one because I tend not to analyze my books this way--I'm too busy picking them apart for things I should have done differently or writing stuff that I would change if I could go back.

I think some stuff has crept in with my last two books that I didn't pick up on until I was deep into the first draft and then I strengthened those things. In Eternal Nights, there's several references to perfectionism on Kendall's part that I hadn't planned on addressing.

There's also some of that in the paranormal that I just turned in at the end of June. The hero says something along the lines of: if the rest of us have to screw up, so do you. Ryne, the heroine, is beating herself up over mistakes she's made in her past.

Of course, since I'm largely a seat of the pants writer, I don't know how much is stuff that's creeping in subconsciously and how much of it is getting to know the characters or having story ideas pop up.

Some day, I'd like to have someone go through my books for me and tell me what my themes are. :-) Yep, I'm lazy. But I also think I could be pretty blind to what's coming through in my stories. Hmm, now that's going to worry me for a while. ;-)

Patti

Skylar Masey said...

Sorry. Didn't mean to make you worry!

Claudia Dain came to speak to the HCRW chapter about theme, and said that she'd never really thought about hers until after her fourth or fifth book. She'd gotten stuck on a contemporary (which was a trial in a new subgenre) and went back to the structure basics. That's when I took a look at my mss. By then I was already up to number 8. But out of all of them, I narrowed down all the different storylines, and characters to land on "second chance at love". Because all of my characters either had to learn from their mistakes or become a different person before they could "get it right".

And I can say that even after re-reading my first book due out in November that I didn't see all the broad things, or the way parts tied together at first. I get a little nervous because that book was done panster style and came out with such cohesiveness. Now I'm a planner/plotter, and I worry that my newer mss don't have the same presence where everything ties back, even in the smallest way.

Then again, maybe I haven't picked them apart enough:0)

Patti O'Shea said...

I'm impressed that you can look at your work and come up with such a well-thought-out answer. Did you have to spend a lot of time studying your stories to figure it out?

I bet you still have those subtle things that tie into other points in the story whether you're pantsing it or plotting. Our subsconscious does all kinds of interesting things while we write. :-)

And don't worry about me worrying. It's part of who I am. I always have to worry about something. :-) That ran its course earlier today.

Patti