“It came as something of a shock . . . to discover that for over thirty years of writing my attention has turned again and again to the same unvarying gamut of sounds and images. I wish I hadn’t noticed this. In fact, it became an embarrassment and I began to wonder if I should file A CATALOGUE OF PERSONAL OBSESSIONS. And my agent was once heard to moan aloud . . . “Oh God, Findley – not more rabbits!“
-introduction, Dinner Along The Amazon, Timothy Findley.
I could relate to the discovery of recurring themes, images, character traits, and worse – repeated phrasing I was finding in my stories (had I written this previous, or perhaps it was in a draft somewhere that never came to fruition.) I don’t have thirty something years experience which makes it all the more worrisome. It got me thinking of other things that creep into my fiction over and over again.
Felines have a habit of wandering onto my pages, and yes, many of my human characters are named after cats that have passed.
Recently, I wrote the dialogue tag ‘whispered loudly’ and a bell sounded. I scoured previous stories to find it and exclaimed, “My characters shall whisper loudly no more!”
I thought ‘the rolling waves of nausea’ was rather clever when I first wrote it, but it resurfacing for a third time made me feel sick to my stomach.
Other recurring bits include bars and their regulars, basements and their stairs, meatloaf, and hockey.
“. . . writers are never through with the world they see and hear . . . because it is a world inside their heads, which is the ‘real’ world they write about.”
I suppose the familiar becomes a handle of sorts. There lies the honesty in fiction that is required to make it believable. Too many layers covering up truth kills a story.