Posts Tagged ‘theme’

Earlier this week, my publisher got in touch with me and asked me to pick some excerpts from each of the stories in Hannah. Specifically, they were looking for excerpts that reflect the theme of the collection. And that really made me think, because up till then, I hadn’t thought there was a theme to Hannah. It was just a bunch of stories I’d been working on at the same time that I thought might make a good collection if included together.

So, I had to ask myself: is there a theme to Hannah and Other Stories?

Now, if for some reason you’re unfamiliar, Hannah and Other Stories is a collection of short stories that I’ll be releasing later this year in the fall (exact date to be determined). It’s a collection of seven strange and unique stories, ranging from ghost hunters investigating a haunted school, to budding serial killers, to even carnivorous horses. And BSC Publishing Group, the company that will be releasing Hannah, and I have been working hard so as many people as possible are interested to read this book when it releases.

Which brings me back to the point of this post: BSC wanted me to pull excerpts from the stories inside that really speak to the theme of the collection. So, I had to sit back and really think about if there was a theme to the collection. And if so, what was it? There certainly wasn’t when I wrote and released The Quiet Game. That was just me writing stories that interested me and which I thought people would enjoy. I thought with those five stories, I’d be making a good foray into the world of publishing, self-publishing, and horror fiction.

And as mentioned above, I was working on some stories I liked and thought would make a great collection when I put Hannah together. So, was there a unifying theme below it all? Maybe something I only noticed subconsciously when I was choosing which stories to put together? Because there were definitely a few I rejected for one reason or another.

Well, after some rumination, I did realize something: in all the stories, there’s a senselessness to the world. The violence and horrors that occur don’t seem to occur because of some greater plan, or a good versus evil struggle like you see in horror. Shit is happening, and even when you go back through events and see how they start and how inevitable the endings are, you don’t feel like there’s anything guiding the world. It’s just a cruel, indifferent world with cruel or indifferent people and cruel or indifferent circumstances leading to horrific results.

And for many, that’s scary in and of itself. Even those of us who aren’t necessarily religious like to think there’s a higher power or guiding force or principle in the universe. The idea that the universe has none (except maybe a writer with a penchant for dark, sinister and macabre storytelling) is sure to chill more than a few readers.

So, I chose excerpts I felt reflected that. Sure, some of those excerpts featured people being awful (and those scenes are incredibly violent), but in the end, that senselessness and lack of guidance or purpose is at the center of the excerpts.

Hopefully, the excerpts chosen help with the marketing campaign we’re going to do in the months leading up to Hannah‘s release. As I said, I have high hopes for this collection, and I think many readers, whether new to my work or fans for years, will find plenty to enjoy.

And maybe, if I put out more collections in the future, I’ll think harder about themes before I put it together and try to shop it around.


That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I actually woke up sick today, so my weekend plans kind of fell by the wayside. Hopefully I can do some of the stuff I wanted to do this weekend. At least I was able to get a blog post out. That was something I wanted to do at some point this weekend.

Anyway, I’m off to heat up dinner. I hope this post got you excited or more interested in Hannah and Other Stories. And while you wait for its release, if you’re looking for something spooky to read, if you want to support my career, or if you want to help me feel better, maybe consider checking out my Published Books page and finding your next read there. Trust me, there’s plenty there to enjoy.

Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, Shabbat Shalom, and only 200 days till Halloween! Yes, I’m keeping track, that should surprise none of you.

It’s been a rough day. Let’s talk the intricacies and difficulties of writing fiction!

I often like to talk like a know-it-all on this blog, but let’s face it, there’s still things I could be better at. Or that I think I could be better at. One of those things is themes. Most stories have them: Harry Potter has destiny vs. fate, prejudice, and our relationship with death; The Shawshank Redemption is about finding hope in a hopeless place, learning to survive and even find ways to thrive in harsh conditions, and, of course, redemption; and The Very Hungry Caterpillar is about how the inevitability of change crafted by thousands of years of evolution and the incessant need to feed to support the process.

Okay, that last one is a huge stretch, but you get the idea. Plenty of stories have deeper meanings and commentaries wrapped into them, like several candle wicks wrapped together to form a new and beautiful candle. Some of these stories are written with the theme in mind, while others arise during the writing of the story. And depending on the kind of story, it can seem odd if a story does or doesn’t have a theme (I wouldn’t expect one from any variation of The Three Little Pigs, but I would expect plenty of thematic elements in an Anne Rice novel).

But how well you carry the theme can vary sometimes. It’s like carrying a tune: sometimes you’re able to do it well, sometimes it varies depending on the tune, and some people, like me, can’t carry a tune that well at all (though that never stops me when there’s a karaoke party going on). With some of the stories I’ve been working on lately, I’ve been trying to figure out how well I carry the themes written into them. And after a lot of thought, I’ve come to the realization that authors are probably not the best people to judge their own work.

Which is probably why we have beta readers and editors, now that I think about it.

With Rose, there’s a big theme of toxic masculinity, especially in the latest draft, that becomes more and more apparent as the story goes on. That theme kind of arose on its own while I wrote and edited and re-edited the story, and I like to think I carry it very well in the book,* though at times I wonder if I’m being a little too obvious with it. Meanwhile, in this novella I’m working on now, there’s a pretty obvious theme about the perils of racism. I’m not too sure how I’m carrying it, if maybe the angle I’m going for or just the way I carry it is the problem.

Then again, some really good stories do go about exploring racism without being subtle at all. Heck, sometimes that’s the point. A Raisin in the Sun┬ámakes no attempt to hide what it’s about. And the novel The Help by Kathryn Stockett has been criticized about how it portrays and explores race relations (as well as who’s writing it), but it still gets its point across very well. Maybe I’m doing something right after all.

Despite my own uncertainties about how well I carry themes, I still write and try to carry them as best I can. What else am I supposed to do? I’m not going to give up writing anytime soon just because I’m unsure of how well an idea or a deeper meaning in one of my stories is presented. Hell, I should keep writing, because that’s how I’m going to get better at carrying them. And if I make a few mistakes along the way, I’ll just pick myself up and try again, either by editing the story or trying to write a new one. It beats beating myself up over it, right?

Besides, I may be my own worst judge. What I see as clumsy carrying, others might see as pretty damn good. And that’s reason enough for me to continue writing in the first place.

*Which I hope to have more news on soon. Thank you, as always, for your continued patience as my publisher Castrum Press and I make sure that Rose is up to snuff before publishing.