Sarah Barr

Writer, poet and teacher

Themes

As I drove through the New Forest today everywhere looked particularly vivid – the brilliant heather and gorse, the sculptures of fallen trees and branches, the emerging pale green leaves. I was thinking about one of the subjects we discussed this morning in the small novel-writing group I’m part of. We all seem to be addressing the nature of ‘Identity’ in our fiction just now. It’s strange how themes emerge and I suppose that all sorts of themes potentially underlie what we write. But we only pick up on some of them. That’s one of the reasons that readers are so important for writers. Readers can see aspects of our writing that seem to be hidden from us, or perhaps it’s that these subjects are so close to our hearts, so part of our identity, that we don’t think they are remarkable. If you are lucky enough to have someone who will read your work and give thoughtful comments, ask them what they think the underlying themes are.

Moving on from this idea, I think that as writers we also need to read. As I say in the May edition of ‘Writers’ Forum’: ‘When beginning to write it can be helpful to copy the style or subject-matter of an established writer. To start with, we are learning our craft by copying.’ I was interviewed, along with three other writers, by Matthew Small for the Motivation section of this monthly magazine (see pp 48-49). ‘We can get ideas for plots, characters and settings from other writers. We can rework these and make something completely new.’

More on these topics soon.

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