Themes: I write about what?

Having complained about werewolves turning up all over my writing, and people thinking I wrote for children, I decided to take a close look at my preoccupations. My themes, you might say. What I found was interesting.

  • Children feature in seven out of 17 stories, but
  • werewolves only in three (four, if you count a mention).
  • I thought legs was a strong theme but they only appear in two of my stories (with a third coming).
  • Half of the stories feature supernatural beasties of some kind, add magic to the mix and we have a clear majority for speculative fiction with a fantasy bent.
  • Two stories are entirely mundane.
  • Five are told in two different voices.
  • It’s 50/50 whether I’ll write a story in first or third person,
  • but in ten of 17 stories the main character is female.
  • In about a third of my stories, the main character doesn’t have a name because, to me, they’re just an observer, a vehicle for telling the story. (In a couple of stories it’s not even clear whether the narrator is male or female because I don’t think it matters.)
  • More often than not, my stories don’t have a clear resolution but
  • stories in the third person are more likely to be resolved than stories in the first.

The last two points are of particular interest to me. When I look the other people’s stories, the ones that appear on websites and in anthologies, it becomes obvious that a resolution, a good, honest, “that’s what happened” end, is very popular. I don’t know many stories that end without closure. I will work on that, and to that end, try to write in the third person more. Even if it’s only part of the story, what with my habit to write in two voices at the same time.

Another thing I found interesting is that my short stories are urban fantasy, but not crime.  The novel I’m writing is an urban fantasy/crime cross-over so you’d think I’d be interested enough in the genre to write crime short stories. I didn’t even submit to the Bloody Scotland short story competition. The prizes looked great, but I find that I don’t have any crime ideas that don’t involve a hint of the supernatural and I didn’t think that would fly. Next year, maybe.

What did I learn from this analysis? Good question.

There’s a tension between stuff I want to write and stuff people want to read. Finding a middle ground – writing what people wants to read – involves adjusting my approach somewhat, but that can be difficult. I’m trying to get better at setting up problems so that they can be satisfyingly resolved, and anchoring my main characters. We’ll see how it goes.