Ideas Crash Down but Themes Bubble Up


The idea for my third novel came as I was headed out the door for a walk with my younger daughter and our ridiculous dog. The sky was gray – nothing new there, we live in Seattle – but it was a dense, purplish gray and the clouds were heavy and round. “Muscular,” I thought to myself.

Lightning crashed before we even made it onto the sidewalk, so we turned right around and went back inside. The dog was not happy.

But that wasn’t the end of it. I kept thinking about those muscular clouds.  And the threat of lightning.  And I just knew I wanted to see what would happen in a story about a world with constant thunderstorms. I wanted to conjure up those images and, through the writing, discover where the story would lead.

So, for me, anyway, ideas crash down – or sneak in. Single images or phrases lodge themselves in my brain until I sit down and write. Broad themes come later.

Just a couple of years ago, when I first started writing fiction, and people were kind enough to ask what I write about, I’d give some specifics about the particular plot I was constructing.

Black-and-White-Raindrops-TextureNow that I have a few short stories under my belt and am on my third novel, I can recognize the themes that are bubbling up.

So, now, if people were kind enough to ask what I write about, I might say, “The conflation of myth and history” or “The beauty and terror of nature – the Sublime.” Oooh, or how about, “The emergence of identity amid conflicting socio-economic systems”?

They’re nothing mind-bogglingly original, but, to borrow a phrase from Scott Westerfeld, they’re bubbly to me.