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[or poetry] would become famous enough that I’d have a literary biographer go through my material – published and unpublished – and look for themes and patterns and other such things as English Majors are taught to study in college and high school lit classes.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.
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.
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.
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!
If you’ve read two or more of my titles, have you picked up on any recurring characteristics in my stories?
[JLS # 445]