What theme ties your writing together?

I’ve realised recently that I write a lot about a certain theme. The way Jodi Picoult writes emotional controversy or the fact Joanne Harris writes about communities, the one thing that runs throughout my writing is loss.


I don’t know why this might be. Perhaps it is because I find the psychology of losing someone, or something, interesting; maybe it’s linked with the poignancy that is associated with loss; or it could even be related to the fact I lost someone very close to me when I was just six years old. Whatever the reason, I’ve begun to notice that this thread can be found in the majority of my writing. It takes on multiple forms, has a variety of different roots and is explored through a myriad of circumstance, but the consequence is always the same – somewhere, someone, somehow is experiencing a loss.

Take my first novel – NaNo #1; aptly named That which is left is lost – Madeline is dying; loss of the physical sense. Yet, Madeline has made a career out of ‘Found Art’, pieces made from the objects people lose. My protagonist, Dr Whalley has lost both his parents and now guides people through the last days of their lives – yet, he is also facing the possibility of losing his wife due to an impulsive mistake. Cecelia lost an entire childhood thanks to the troubling influence of her father – a teacher convicted of sexually abusing his students. Penelope has lost the man she loved and was threatened with losing the life she had built up, not to mention the loss of her privacy if the blackmailer ever went public. Betsy, a minor character in some ways, gives up her own child by choice – mirroring Madeline’s own loss from years before.

I’ve also recently written stories about a woman struggling with dementia – losing the life she has lived and yet not remembering that this is what is happening; a mother who loses a daughter only to end up embracing son; a man whose original form is lost and then loses control of the body he has been given instead. So many different ways to interpret that one idea: loss.

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How else might it seep into my writing, seduce my characters and weave it’s way into my narrative? It’s a worthy topic to investigate, that much I know; there is so much scope, so many possibilities and opportunities to explore. Despite the maudlin atmosphere that might taint my words because of it I also believe that loss can be liberating and allow us the freedom to become someone we could not imagine we might become. So, even if this realisation of my theme is more by coincidence than by design, I’m happy with it. Perhaps through this I will find my voice; the one that expresses the myriad of emotions that are connected by this topic; the idea of loss.


What do you write about? Have you identified any themes in your writing? Are there any writers you admire who explore particular themes in their writing?
Let me know in comments or, as usual, Tweet me.


9 responses to “What theme ties your writing together?

  1. Pingback: My Writing Process – Blog Tour | Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer

  2. This is such an interesting post, Cat. Not only have you identified your recurring theme but you’ve started to analyse it and its possibilities in your writing. As you know from commenting on my blog post, all I’ve done is notice how much the theme of moving on after a crisis or the loss of someone close seems to crop up in my writing.

    • The first step is noticing, then I think once you’ve done this it allows you the time to contemplate how and why you use this theme. I was going to write this post a week or so ago, but got distracted and therefore it permitted me to think a bit more deeply about it.
      I’m sure that now you’re aware of your themes you’ll start to apply them and see how you can best utilise them in your writing – I think it’s a natural progression that we might not even realise we do.
      I’m glad I got to read your post, it was interesting to note how other writers also have themes spanning their writing and that we’re not always conscious of them as we’re writing!
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂
      Take care, Cat x

  3. It is interesting to reflect and notice patterns in our work. I notice my longer pieces tend to be about family and involve multiple generations: grandmother/mother/daughter or sister/cousin relationships.

    My short stories don’t typically follow this same trend – instead they seem to center around on loss and much darker themes!

    • It’s good that you are able to explore different themes in different formats. It widens the scope and allows you some variety. I’d like to expand my themes through short stories, but I seem naturally drawn to loss somehow! Being conscious of it now, I hope I can start to explore other elements.
      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share. 🙂
      Take care, Cat x

  4. I think it’s an interesting exercise to look at what you write in this way. Martin Amis said when you write a novel you write about things you didn’t know were on your mind, and perhaps that’s what we are doing when themes crop up in our work?

    • I agree. I hadn’t realised this until very recently. I wasn’t actively searching for themes in my writing, but someone commented on the link between my novel and a shorter piece and I realised that it crops up in almost every piece!
      Now I’m aware of it, I think I’ll be able to really tighten up particular aspects of my writing. And, possibly, challenge myself to write something purposefully outside of this theme to broaden my writing scope.
      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. 🙂
      Take care, Cat

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