Kate Elliott has an interesting post up today, on readers spotting patterns in a writer’s work — often patterns that are really there, but that the writer herself hasn’t recognized.
Kate says: “Reader A may pick up on a clever allusion that I intended while Reader B may draw a comparison or see thematic content that never once occurred to me as I was writing.”
This is so true! Except I don’t know how often I intend clever allusions. Sometimes, yes. But a lot of the time, clever things just appear, and I don’t notice them until a reader points them out to me. Then I’m like, “Oh, yes, I did that on purpose, knew it all the time,” but really, if I knew it, it was only with the back part of my brain.
Like in LORD OF THE CHANGING WINDS, after Kes first goes off with Kairaithin? She never goes home again. That first decision point carried consequences that were too big and overwhelming for anything to ever let her take it back. But did I notice that when I was writing the book? Nope, not until my brother, who read the rough draft, commented about it. And after he pointed it out, I may very sure not to mess it up with any later revision, too.
Anyway, later, Kate adds, “If a reader reads along the career of a writer then certain patterns, certain ways of approaching the creative vision, certain familiar themes or narrative quirks or a particular way of using voice may emerge as characteristic of that writer’s work. Certain subjects or questions or concerns or fixations or narrative structures or prose styles may come up in more than one project.” And then she comments about the idea that writers may put the same protagonist in more than one story.
And thinking about it, I can certainly think of very obvious examples of that kind of thing. Like, I quit reading Piers Anthony because all his protogonists were exactly the samer person, and once I noticed that it really bothered me. Or did anybody else ever read a lot of Jack Chalker and notice his fixation on mind control and magical brainwashing? And on forcibly changing people’s bodies, too, not just their minds. It actually gets pretty disturbing if you read, say, the Nathan Brazil series and then the Flux and Anchor series in succession.
I’m curious about the same question that Kate poses, too: Any patterns jump out at you when you think of any writer’s whole body of work?
Anyway, I haven’t read anything by Kate Elliott since the Jaran series, where frankly I thought the earlier books were great and then to me it seemed like the plot kind of got too baroque and spun off too many subplots and I either quit reading before the series really concluded, or else it never did actually conclude as such, I don’t remember. But I’ve heard lots of great things about the COLD MAGIC series, which I’m looking forward to reading once the third book is out.