Recurring themes

Like many great writers, Baby Duck has a favourite theme he returns to over and over again. His backlist would be the envy of many a writer, and all except one of his works – the classic Chickens in Space – features monsters. But even Chickens in Space is generously supplied with aliens, which is nearly the same thing.

He spends hours sometimes, drawing page after page, then he brings them to me to staple together and he dictates the text to me. If I’m really lucky I get to palm this job off on to Drama Duck, though then I worry that he’ll show it to someone and they’ll think I made all those spelling mistakes, so usually I do it. It can take an awfully long time sometimes, but its kinda fun too. His monsters are endlessly inventive, though the story usually follows a well-worn track, featuring a portal that opens into our world to let the monsters in, followed by lots of fights and explosions. Not too dissimilar to your average box-office smash, in other words.

The latest effort features a new twist – meta-text. After a dozen pages of the usual monster mayhem, I find something puzzling.

“Why is this monster being attacked by a giant pencil?” I ask.

The look he gives me says he’s wondering how someone can be that stupid and still tie their own shoelaces.

“He’s not being attacked by a giant pencil, Mum. That’s just showing people how to draw him.”

It’s so hard to get good mothers these days.

I find recurring themes in my own work too. Some are conscious. I’m fascinated by transformations, for instance. One of my favourite fairytales is Beauty and the Beast. The Little Mermaid is another. I love a good makeover story, like Cinderella, or Grease. Shapeshifters and werewolves are great. (As long as they’re not too scary. I still have nasty memories of some werewolf movies I saw about 25 years ago, back when werewolves were still beasts and not just extra-hairy toyboys, a la the current paranormal craze.)

Some recurring motifs seem to sneak in there without me realising. I was thinking about my next Nano novel the other day and a lighthouse appeared in it. That’s funny, I wrote that other story about a lighthouse Why do lighthouses keep popping up? Which led to some sniggering about phallic symbols from the more juvenile aspects of my personality, but no enlightenment. As far as I’m aware, lighthouses mean nothing to me, so why do I keep wanting to write about them? The mind is a very weird place.

What are the themes and motifs that you keep returning to? Or what themes are you drawn to in the work of others? Weird enquiring minds want to know.

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6 Responses to Recurring themes

  1. Jo says:

    I don’t write, but anyone who includes dragons in their stories has a sure fired audience in me.

    Baby Duck sounds a clever kid, for a 6 yr old, surely you could see that was a drawing instruction, I’m surprised at you.

  2. Marina says:

    In my defence I can only say that I’ve been caught out before! I bet if I’d said “My, that’s a lovely picture of someone drawing a monster” he would have said “Mum! That’s an intergalactic octopus shooting the monster with its laser cannon!”

    I must agree with you on the dragon thing. One day I’ll have to post some pictures of my dragon collection.

  3. writerjenn says:

    I keep having characters drawn to bodies of water (oceans, rivers, waterfalls, etc.). Not surprising since I myself have always lived near creeks or rivers, and I make regular pilgrimages to the ocean, and have been known to hike a ridiculous number of miles just to look at waterfalls.

  4. Pandababy says:

    Lighthouses. I haven’t put one in a story (yet) but have thought a lot about them – there are many on the scenic Oregon coast.

    Your baby duck has much talent. It runs in the family, I think. What fun to share your vocation with your ducklings. I have always envied people who grew up into their game, learning from their parents.

  5. Jaye Patrick says:

    At night, a lighthouse represents a guiding light to others. During the day, it represents a journey. Just FYI.

    As for themes, well, I’m all about characters who are more than they think they are; that is their journey.

    So… Baby Duck’s gonna grow up to be a… cartoonist?

  6. Marina says:

    Jenn, waterfalls are always worth looking at, aren’t they! Just the sound of running water is so lovely.

    Pandababy, we could make it a Nano challenge: “Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to include a lighthouse somewhere in your story”. Although I guess it wouldn’t be a very fair challenge, since I already know I’m including one in mine.

    Jaye, I like characters who are more than they think they are in terms of untested mettle. Not so keen on the ones where the “more” bit turns out to be “guess what, you’re actually the long-lost heir to the throne”.

    As for Baby Duck, are there many comics that deal exclusively with monsters? If not we might have to consider another career option.