My Author Brand™ is getting weird

I’ve been noticing trends in my writing lately.

That’s pretty normal for authors. There are things we like to come back to again and again: certain themes, tropes, and plot points are bound to come up in different stories over and over. It’s great fodder for English-class essays.

Of course I have those sort of trends. Similar themes, similar characters are everywhere.

But I’ve been noticing, like, weird things.

Stupid things.

Things that I should have absolutely no reason to repeat again and again but seem to be repeating anyway. Things like…

Characters doing conversational magic. Okay, maybe this one’s not that weird and stupid. It works in Howl’s Moving Castle, anyway. But still.

In Hungry Girls, Megan does magic by talking to stuff, telling it what she wants it to do, because she’s self-taught and figured out magic through experimentation.

And she always ends by telling whatever object she’s trying to enchant that it’s a very good object, because once she’s talked to it, it feels alive, and she wants it to feel good about itself.

She basically does magic by hyping things up.

The “titular” character of the novel I’m drafting right now, which isn’t titled so much as hashtagged (#GroundskeeperWIP), is also self-taught. The groundskeeper only does (or has) (or whatever) plant magic, which he hardly considers magic in the first place.

The groundskeeper chuckled. “Magic? Sure, if you want to call it that. I say I’m just a man who knows his plants.”

His conversation is a little more sophisticated – or at least a little less rambly and awkward – than Megan’s, and also more of an actual conversation: while things feel alive to Megan after she talks to him, the groundskeeper really is talking to things that are alive, things that are explicitly sentient in the story.

It’s a fun way to write magic, but it’s also super dorky.

Which I guess is why I keep doing it.

Characters who love poetry with their whole hearts. I have to use my English degree somehow! And apparently the way I’ve decided to use it is to insert conversations about poetry into my fantasy novels.

In Hungry Girls, Zafira – the stabby, grumpy, nonbinary ranger Megan falls for – shows hir softer side when ze reads from a book of Urdu poetry every night.

(Sometimes, ze reads it aloud to Megan. For which the other characters make far too much fun of hir.)

In GroundskeeperWIP, the groundskeeper has several volumes of poetry on his nightstand, including one by e.e. cummings…which led to a whole scene where a 10-year-old dunks on e.e. cummings for failing to follow conventional grammar rules.

In her defense, as a 10-year-old, Samira’s been told that every single sentence must be capitalized and that grammar rules are absolute.

Which, if you follow my blog at all, you know is untrue.

But that’s how they teach grammar in elementary school, so! Makes sense that a 10-year-old would read e.e. cummings for the first time in confusion like “Who let this man publish anything? He should’ve gotten an F in English class.”

I actually love e.e. cummings, and the groundskeeper does tell the Samira that the rules are a bit different for poetry, and she’s captivated by the sounds of the poetry anyway.

I just make fun of it first.

Characters wearing their pajamas out the door on their way to do important things. Okay, here’s the weird one. I don’t know why this keeps happening. But…

There’s a part in The Remarkable Retirement of Edna Fisher where Red, our antagonist, wakes up from a nightmare, rolls out of bed, argues with some friends who are also up, becomes enraged – and then, because he’s anger issues and unresolved trauma in a trench coat, flies off on a dragon to set fire to Detroit.

In revising the story, I realized that I had him in a leather jacket, flight mask, and boots in Detroit…even though he never got dressed after rolling out of bed.


I could’ve fixed this by having him get dressed when he wakes up. Except he has no reason to. He’s not planning on going anywhere. He’s not even planning on being awake for the day yet. He just needs to calm down before crawling back into bed.

I also could’ve fixed this by having him get dressed on his way out the door to attack the city. Except he’s enraged and impulsive, and if he actually thought about getting dressed and stopped to do it, the whole attack sequence would lose the motivation and energy behind it.

So how did I fix it?

I changed his clothes in Detroit back to what he was wearing when he hopped on that dragon: boxers, a t-shirt, and bare feet.

Ya boy is setting fire to a city in a t-shirt and boxers.

Fastforward to just a week ago. I’m drafting a scene in GroundskeeperWIP where the groundskeeper wakes up to someone pounding on his door: Samira’s older brother has come because his sister has run off (again) and is probably somewhere in the cemetery. Like the back lot. Where the Ghost is.

The groundskeeper obviously doesn’t get dressed before answering the door – he’s exhausted and this is an unscheduled visit. So he’s wearing a nightshirt and a dressing gown. And when he hears Samira’s gone, he doesn’t take the time to get dressed: he’s too worried, especially since he and Samira had a fight the last time they talked.

So he runs out the door in his nightshirt and dressing gown and once again bare feet.

I don’t know why I like having characters run out the door in their pjs and no shoes, but apparently I like it, because it keeps happening.

Bonus: Something similar happens in Hungry Girls, although Megan at least has the presence of mind to throw on some sneakers.

4 thoughts on “My Author Brand™ is getting weird

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