People ask "Where do you get your ideas"? And my answer is usually, "Getting ideas isn't the problem. It's getting the right idea that is tricky." More specifically—getting the right idea and then developing it in the right way. This right idea doesn't have to be particularly original. Most every idea has been done already, in most cases over and over and over again. Shakespeare stole most of his plots. What an author has to do is take an old idea, and make it her own.
I'm at the point where I've got an idea for the next book, and it feels like the right idea, and I'm spending some time brainstorming and researching and developing it. My biggest problem right at this moment is trying to make it new for me. This will (hopefully) be my fifteenth published book, and I've found that I tend to have types of characters, types of situations, types of settings that appeal to me and that I want to use over and over again. Like, I like chefs. I really like chefs. I've had three of them so far, and those three characters have appeared in five books. I just...like them, okay? Same with writers. I've had four of those, and they've all been heroes or heroines.
So rule number one and two for this new book: No chefs. And no writers.
More insidiously, I tend to have types of story and conflict that appeal to me. They say that every writer has her core themes, which she returns to over and over again, and mine are identity and truth. Someone, most likely the heroine, is always going to be lying or hiding something in my books. And someone, most likely the hero, is going to be the person who forces her to admit and face up to the truth.
I know that other writers have their own core themes. In every book of Susanna's that I've read, for example, the theme seems to be discovery of self and community, of connection between people, and between present and past. Anna's books are about self-discovery, too, but in a different way: they're about finding moral strength, and courage. (Susanna and Anna might disagree with me here, of course.)
I keep on trying to think up different stories. But my brain, my heart, my fingers all steer me in the direction of stories about identity and truth. Probably featuring chefs and writers.
(NO! No chefs or writers! I swear it!!!!!)
Of course, this doesn't bother me in other people's books. Marian Keyes, for example, often writes about overcoming depression or addiction. Do I care? I do not. I lap it up. I love it! That story of hers is something I want to read, over and over and over again.
Do you find you have topics you write about, over and over? Do you find your favourite authors returning to themes again and again? What do you think about repetition?
(And in my new book...can I maybe have a blogging dinner lady? How about a skywriting short-order cook?)