Getting to the core of stories (or self-help via writing:)

    This month’s theme is returning to the core of stories - again and again - through our work. I do this. I know I do. I return to themes I’m still trying to understand or process. Good writing, I think, explores questions, rather than providing answers. As writers, we come to the table with a whole array of experiences. We’ve all lived through so much, regardless of our journeys, just surviving until this point. We've seen and/or experienced loss, pain, injustice, disappointment, victory, defeat, fairness, and unfairness... 

    Writing provides an outlet to explore those nagging questions and/or unhealed parts of ourselves, and we can do that by giving such burdens to fictitious people.

    Often in my work, my core themes provide the groundwork for stories that seem bigger or more sensational than the themes themselves, i.e. getting trapped inside an abandoned amusement park and having to relive one's nightmare in order to get out (the Enter the Dark House series). The theme in those two books, for me, is really about reliving a real-life nightmare. At what point does the horror we inflict upon ourselves (by not being able to let go of or process whatever plagues us) become bigger than make-believe horror?

    Similarly, in Jane Anonymous, one might think the core of the story is a young woman’s experience of being abducted and held captive, but for me the story is really about a loss of innocence: believing that all is well and wonderful in the world, and then finding out that it isn’t. The rug is pulled out from under her, so to speak. 

    The core themes in my books explore guilt, loss, abandonment, chance and coincidence, the kindness of strangers, and one’s believability and likeability having lived through trauma (The Last Secret You’ll Ever Keep). I stage these themes at “haunted houses” and dress them up in creepy costumes, using mood lighting and eerie sound effects. But at the stories’ core, there’s just me, at my computer, trying to figure stuff out.   



  1. Very nicely put. In this way, writing reminds me of dreams that refuse to evaporate. The first story I ever sold was based on one. Once I wrote the tale, the dream went away.

  2. I love this so much. I especially love the idea of burdening fictitious people so we can tackle the questions that plague us. It really is so true.


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