Commonalities in My Stories

Do Certain Characteristics Recur in My Fiction?

By Jeff Salter

I’ve occasionally day-dreamed that one day my fiction [or poetry] would become famous enough that I’d have a literary biographer go through my material – published and unpublished – and look for themes and patterns and other such things as English Majors are taught to study in college and high school lit classes. Alas, I doubt my scribblings will ever achieve suitable merit – whether popular or literary – to entice a biographer to delve into them much farther than to number them for my obituary. But I can dream.

If someone WOULD do that for me – analyze my body of work – I wouldn’t be faced with a blank sheet of paper [i.e., blank screen] as I am now… when trying to determine whether certain characteristics recur in my writing.

But I’ll give it a shot anyhow. [I have 13 novels and 4 novellas published so far… with one contracted novel in the pipeline.]

Let me begin, as I often do, by defining our terms… or otherwise tweaking the topic to my understanding. I’m avoiding the word, “Pop-Ups” — since the connotation (these days) is of the chronically annoying screens that interrupt your Internet reading and/or research. Instead, I’ll think of this topic in the sense of Patterns, Commonalities, or Repetition. In other words: for my fiction writing, do I exhibit a reliance on a formula of sorts?

Answer: yes and no.

what is your formula

Characters — Major

Most of my heroines begin their story with relatively little self-esteem or confidence… but learn (by the end of the tale) that they are far more resourceful, intelligent, and courageous than they ever believed.

Many of my major characters are
* in their late 20s to early 30s
* single — either divorced or broken-up from a formal engagement
* NOT looking for a new relationship
Several of my major characters
* are military veterans
* don’t have living parents… or have parents residing elsewhere (and therefore out of the plot)

Characters — Supporting

I have a lot of aunts and uncles in my stories — they are often the sounding boards for my heroes and heroines [usually in place of one or both parents].

I have several “bad bosses” in my tales — I think most working folks can identify with that. LOL

My heroes and heroines often have a best friend who either provides comic relief, tries to talk them out of doing things, or encourages them to develop a relationship — sometimes all three.

In my screwball comedies, I usually have at least one “sane” person who questions what the hero / heroine are doing — as a means of de-fusing any skepticism the reader might have. [In other words, if a reader is about to think, “I can’t believe ABC is doing that!” I want this SANE character to have already voiced that disbelief… so the reader can just continue on with the flow of the story.]

Several of my stories have a local “character” – sometimes in the guise of a likable “barfly” – who has historical or current information that the hero or heroine needs.

Villains

This may be the category in which I have the least commonality (across my published titles). As best I can recall, three of my titles – all novellas – do NOT even have a villain in the plot. Which means I probably have fourteen titles WITH bad guys. Among my villains are:
* psychopaths or sociopaths
* punks / thugs
* manipulative egomaniacs
* sleazy perverts
* druggie hirelings

Plots / Themes

Not sure there are many commonalities (across my published titles) in this category.

Many of my stories begin in the middle of some bizarre circumstance or crisis. Later on, the reader learns how they got there and why.

Several of my major characters are new in town… which is a convenient device to let them encounter new situations and new faces.

Several are burdened with a responsibility or obligation which they wish they did NOT have to undertake.

Some of my major characters have a bit of mystery about where they’d been and what they’d done prior to moving to ABCDEFG.

Action Scene(s)

Partly, I suppose, because many of my titles are HYBRIDS – of romance, contemporary, suspense, humor, and action – I often have an action scene… usually at or near the end of the story. In many of these the hero and heroine are both engaged in the struggle, so it’s not the stereotypical situation of “boy saves girl.” By the end of my stories, my heroines are usually quite able to handle their part of the fight… and might even help out the hero!

Question:

If you’ve read two or more of my titles, have you picked up on any recurring characteristics in my stories?

[JLS # 445]

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About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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19 Responses to Commonalities in My Stories

  1. I think that you have about covered it, Jeff. You have a good critical eye for your own work.
    I might add that I think that you can be hard on men; they don’t always come across as clean as women. They sometimes lack hygiene, in other words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Working 30 years in the library profession — the staffing of which was statistically dominated by females — I heard quite a lot from ladies about gents (whether their own… or males in general). I’ve believed that experience gave me a good ear for what many women think / feel… especially about guys.
      As to whether the guys in my stories are “clean” or not — I’ll have to ponder that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kathleenbee says:

    I love how well you know your books! What an interesting blog post. I think I may do the same thing on my blog, just for fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jbrayweber says:

    You’ve covered a lot of ground, there, Jeff. And you’ve got a great handle on it. I’ve never really analyzed my own writing. For me, there is always a mortal danger and fight/ battle scenes. I tend to write dark, so there is also always some sort of comic relief that comes in the form of a character, on-going or recurring situation, or banter. My heroes are all Alphas and the heroines are strong women who put the heroes through the wringer. None of my stories include virginal heroines, which is super common among historical romance.
    Great topic!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jeff Salter says:

      well, Jenn… it looks like you HAVE analyzed your own writing. You’ve clearly identified trends, patterns, etc.
      Now the question would be: are those unconscious? or have you woven them into your writing formula quite purposefully?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jeff, like everyone else who has responded here, I think you’ve got a good handle on your writing. And I’m amazed at how similar your characters are in general to mine. When I read one of your stories, I always see something in there that reminds me of one of my own books.

    Your categories in the similitude of your characters is exactly what makes your writing you. Keep them. Except maybe for the lack of living parents. Sometimes a great dad or mom can have a good influence or be the best-friend-type that questions your MC’s actions.

    Having different types of villains is what keep the story interesting. That’s a good thing. Ego-driven villains are what I tend to fall back on, although they always have something else going on from one of those other categories too. It’s what moves the plot.

    The cover of a book should show something from the book, whether it’s a scene or elements of a scene or two. You do a good job. I like them.

    You never know what will happen down the road with your stories. Keep writing. I for one am enjoying them.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Elaine Cantrell says:

    Jeff, you had a great villain in Cowboy Out of Time. I enjoyed that story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Thanks, Elaine. that particular villain — Bruno Syste — was interesting to write. I had some helpful feedback from a beta reader who had some experience with a similar creep.

      Like

  6. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Nice dissertation about the writings of J. L. Salter. I’m a little surprised at the shortage of family members, as large and as close-knit as your family is. Of course, the fewer the characters, the more you can concentrate on the action, and the less time you need to devote to showing the relationship dynamics between the main characters and their parents and/or siblings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Exactly. One thought is that if the heroine (or hero) had a lot of family nearby, she (or he) might logically turn to THEM for comfort and assistance. Whereas, I wanted the troubled character to turn to the hero or heroine for that comfort.
      So I write most of the family support team out of the picture (either geographically out or deceased).
      But when I do that, I always leave a loving and wise uncle or aunt nearby.
      At least one of my stories has a helpful and wise mom — Jason’s mother — in Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold.
      And another story has a helpful and wise (in his own rough way) brother.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. You summed it up really well. I’ve read all your titles and think you’ve covered the similarities very well. I had noticed that there were always parental-type figures but hadn’t realized that there never actually were any parents in the stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      Thanks, Angela, for your long-standing support and encouragement.
      Just running the titles through my mind, I can only think of one active parent who appears in the story — Jason’s mom in “Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold”. She plays a pivotal role in that plot — helping the couple get back together.

      Like

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