Friday, November 27, 2009


I’m always behind. The last to start watching Mad Men, long after Molly and Maureen raved about how great it was. Same with the Wire, West Wing and Generation Kill.

I’m still working on getting my hands on the DVD set of West Wing, but I have finally seen Generation Kill. Amazing series, if you can get past the first episode, where we as the viewer, are dropped into a company of soldiers, without any introduction, or idea of names, who these people are, what marine terminology means, or even a why.

But as I watched, I came to two conclusions. 1) the guys who wrote this can write dialogue like no body else. (it’s by the same guys who wrote the Wire) 2) the series has the most cynical viewpoint of any military show I’ve ever seen.

The cynicism is beautifully shown, through terrible decision making by the army superiors, who, in general, are self-serving and incompetent.

Not unlike the superiors in the Baltimore Police department, or the Mayor’s office, in the Wire. The type of cynicism that is bred into both shows, with the heroes of the shows, not only battling the enemy, (be they enemy soldiers, or drug dealers) but also the people above them.

It a very consistent theme between both shows, and from what I hear, David Simon has a new show coming out, and I’d put money, there’ll be a similar theme to that show as well.

I’ve seen a lot of Joss Whedon’s shows as well, in fact, all of them, and he too seems to have a similar theme running through his work. The idea of the warrior woman is the central core of both Buffy, and Dollhouse, but also Firefly, where at the heart, (especially in the movie) the main protagonist is River, the ultimate tormented warrior woman.

I’m not familiar enough with the work of Alan Ball to know if this is consistent across a lot of the most interesting writers on TV, but I have started to look for a consistent theme in my own writing as a result.

Right now I would say it’s the idea of atonement, for real or imagined sins. I’m not sure why, but this comes up again and again in my books. Now that I know it’s there, I can enrich the theme, and also work hard on not repeating myself. Because someday soon, I am going to need a new theme.

Anyone else notice on going themes in their work? Or there any other great writers out there that repeat similar ideas in all of their work?


Word Actress said...

I think we all have themes that thread through our work. Each story has its own unique characters, of course, but we tend to be shaped by certain themes.
I try to keep my world open - that is, I try to hang with people of all ages. I find teenagers fascinating right now (I don't have one, which is why I'm allowed that indulgence!).I love to drop into their lives and watch them text while we're watching a movie, eating dinner, driving in the car (ugh!) I've been independent all my life (I was the only girl in a family of brothers, so I got my own big room upstairs and was pretty much allowed to stay private whenever I wanted), so it fascinates me how today's youth can't be alone with their thoughts EVER. I ask who their heroes are, what they think about boys/girls, what they'd like to do with their lives. They keep me honest and brain-expansive.

My own themes change as my life does. I never know what will get me so excited on any given day, but thankfully I keep getting inspired. That's part of the mystery of writing that really turns me on.
We all have favorite writers and I think if we take the time to gather together several of their books, we'll see setting changes and on the surface, story changes, but when we really, really search below the surface, those little tics of familiarity emerge. As you follow the direction any character takes, you may also see new directions the writer is exploring. Try it .Get out a couple of books of a favorite writer.Scan the pages again, looking for themes. See what you find...Happy Post Turkey Day...Mary Kennedy Eastham, Author, The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget and the upcoming novel Night Surfing

Maureen McGowan said...

I think in some ways recurring themes are part of our voice. But I don't think it needs to get redundant as long as there are other elements in each story that vary.

Eileen said...

I would be your healing girl. I didn't even notice it until my agent pointed it out. I seem to like to write about people AFTER something awful has happened to them and show how they get past that to get to a better place.

Molly O'Keefe said...

hey just emerging from the pumpkin pie/turkey coma - I think theme is part of voice too. It's the story you're drawn too and the way you see characters. I like that Eileen knows hers - I would say mine might be redemption - you're never as bad as you think you are....

Eileen said...

I can so see the redemption see in your work, Molly! Nice call.

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