Doing a guest blog post for Books in my Handbag recently, on the subject of themes and tropes, got me thinking on the topic. This was reinforced when I listen to In Our Time on Radio 4 last week, when the topic under debate was the Shakespeare play Macbeth. The discussion was interesting, and took me back to days when I was studying it, or watching in in the theatre. It always strikes me that along with ambition and guilt, the play has an awful lot in it about children. Macbeth and his wife do not have any, although it seems that they might have at some stage. The chief nobles have families, who Macbeth sets about wiping out. The sons of the former king flee to avoid a similar fate. It makes me wonder if this was a theme that snuck up on the playwright as he was working. If I ever get to be a guest at one of these fantasy dinner parties, where you can chose you favourite six guests, I'll ask him.
Although using a theme is one of the pieces of advice that is often given to would be writers, I've never been able to do it. I find it too constricting, and to be truthful, it annoys me sometimes too as a reader, if it feels that the author has chosen and applied a theme, just because they feel they should. This is not to say that themes don't sneak up on me. In Never Coming Home it turned out to be lost children, both the ones who were missing and the hero and heroine's dysfunctional childhoods. A prevailing one, when you write romance, is often that of trust. You can do a lot with that, and it is one of the bedrocks of a romantic relationship, so does not go out of fashion.
I'm more comfortable with the idea of tropes - often found in romance writing - friends or enemies to lovers, a marriage of convenience, rags to riches - the Cinderella story. Internet sites often run top ten polls of the most popular, which are fun to read, and possibly argue with. I can understand the attraction, If you are reading romance as escapism, then it is relaxing and maybe reassuring to be able to have an outline of where the story is going. The use of a trope does not mean that the writing is not good, or the telling of the story and the outcome not satisfactory to the reader - after all, we know that it's going to have a happy ending, and it does not spoil the enjoyment.
I must admit I have a contrary streak though. My runaway bride turned into a runaway groom, and I'm wondering about the possibilities of riches to rags, although I think that might prove to be too contrived. Which is not to say my subconscious will not hit me with something it has cooked up at some time in the future.
At the moment the WIP does not have visible theme or trope although there is a Beauty and the Beast style overgrown garden. I have come up with a couple of characters I intend to murder, so things are going well in that regard. I'll keep you posted if a theme crops up.