Thursday, November 24, 2011


Weird how yesterday's title was in Japanese, and today we're in French.

Oeuvre in French means work, like a work of art. In English it can be used to describe the entire life work of any creative person.

A long, long, long time ago I complained (possibly on this blog, but maybe even before I'd started blogging here) about a certain NYT best-selling artist whose characters all felt the same. I didn't mind them all having the same religion and the same body type. But I hated that they all had the same 2 or 3 hobbies, and the same fairly rare familial relationships. I felt like all the books were clearly the author inserted into different plots.

Recently, for the first time since I was in secondary school, I started reading multiple standalone books by the same author. And as I read, I realised that there were things that linked the books. Sometimes, it as a type of character, or a type of premise, or even a setting. Sometimes it was a theme. Sometimes it was so intangible that I couldn't even figure out what it was, even after 3 of 4 books by an author. And I realised that I loved it.

I realise now that it depends on how you look at it. If you LOVE photography, you may be thrilled to bittles everytime a character's hobby is snapping candids. But if you hate it, or even if you're lukewarm about it, it may grate on your nerves.

Things that are important to authors make their way into stories. Obviously, just look at the number of main characters who are writers themselves, or love books or poetry. But everything that you include in more than one story is a risk. A risk you take of alienating some readers. And endearing others.

It's important enough that it's worth some consideration as writers.

What common thread(s) do you want your stories to have?
What issues are important to you and how can you highlight them? (Ex. featuring more "other" characters.)
If you've completed more than one novel, even in first draft, re-read and see what keeps popping up.

For me, it's settings outside those well-known by Westerners. Barbados, Japan, and one dystopian setting based on India. Death is also a theme for me. So far noone's died in this year's nano. I'm shocked! Foreign languages surprise me by making an appearance in every book. In all but one novel, there have been multiple cultures featured.

I try hard to change the type of character every book. But I'm liking the type I'm writing this nano, and on the last inter-nano effort, so I may stick close to that in the future. I'm pretty good about changing jobs, and since I write YA, what my characters want to be when they grow up. I avoid characters who are writers, except in one book where it's a plot point. I think everyone's hobbies are different. And I've never checked it, but I think the characters of different books don't even share the same story-telling quirks. (I write mostly first person.)

I think the essential question to ask yourself when there are similarities in your oeuvre (planned or otherwise) is this:

If 75% of the people that read my last book were going to be pissed aout me including this again, would it still be important to include it?

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