Saturday, April 14, 2012

A to Z Blogging Challenge: M is for...


For my entries in the 2012 A to Z Challenge, I will be focusing on writing elements that I find important and that I want to incorporate into my work.

Today, the topic is MOTIF

I want to write stories that not only entertain during the reading but that stay with a reader long after they’ve finished them.  Am I there yet?  Oh Hell, no! 

Just because I’m doing this series on writing as my entries in the 2012 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge doesn’t mean I’ve got it all down.  Not even close.   Like I said in a comment reply to an earlier post, it’s much easier to write these posts about how I’d like to write than to actually do the writing. 

But at least I’m blogging on elements I’m trying to use in my writing. 

Incorporating effective motifs is one of those elements, and it’s one that can be particularly elusive.

Just defining what a motif is can be difficult for many writers.  I’ve seen places where motif and theme will be blended into meaning virtually the same thing.  In my opinion, they’re not.  A theme is essentially “what the story is about,” above and beyond the basic plot.  A motif is a recurring item, element, event, topic, idea, or action that adds depth and impact to the story.  A motif doesn’t really have to have anything to do with a theme, but I think it works best when it does. 

So in my way of looking at it, a motif is a recurring device that illustrates and echoes a theme, reinforces it, and gives it added impact.

Say I’m writing a mystery (and not entirely coincidentally, I am).  So my basic plot covers whodunit, why’d they do it, and how they will be brought to justice.  But I also have several themes I’m trying to incorporate into the story, with the main one being the distance, difficulty, and strain in the relationship between a father and his son.

So how do I introduce a motif to reveal and reinforce this theme without being heavy-handed, obvious, clich├ęd, and painfully clumsy?  THIS is where it gets elusive for me, because more often than not, I can’t.

I know this is going to be little help to any fellow wanna-be-writers, but I find that the most effective motifs I create are the ones I don’t try to force.  They’re the ones that occur naturally.  I’ll be in the moment, writing the rough draft of a scene, and something will get stuck in off of the cuff, and when I read my work later, I’ll see it. 

In the case of my WIP mystery, I wrote an early scene where the son is in his teens and they’re arguing and the father goes to reach for his son and can’t grab him because the son keeps moving away.  When I read it later, I was like, “Huh…  out of arm’s reach and moving away’.  It may not be earth-shattering, but that action and image clearly echo my theme, so I can use it as a motif in the story. I will try to use again in later scenes, fitting it in hopefully subtle and natural ways.


Sorry, but like many of my A-to-Z blog posts, this is a writing topic where I know what to do, but struggle in describing how to do it, and frequently fall short in actually doing it.  ;^)

Thanks for visiting -- see you the rest of this month for more alphabetical fun!

Don't forget to visit HERE to see all the bloggers taking part in this A-to-Z challenge, and try to drop in on as many of them as you can!


Grammy said...

Hello, good ideas and well expounded upon! Thank you very much. Best regards to you. Ruby

.jessica. said...

I totally agree with all of this - motif is TOUGH, and it usually has to happen organically. Usually when I'm drafting I'll find myself going back to an image over and over, or some sort of symbol will come up again and again. Often I won't even see it until I'm re-reading. Then I can kind of use those to help reinforce the theme. But yeah - all of these sorts of things that require lots of attention to subtext and symbolism, that are meant to be subtle yet powerful - they're hard work to pull off!

Milo James Fowler said...

Great post, Chris. I'd like to see more stick-with-you motifs in my own work; good example you give of the son literally being out of reach.

Alison Miller said...

"find that the most effective motifs I create are the ones I don’t try to force."

Yes. THAT.

Great post, awesome blog! Nice to meet you through A-Z!

Nicole said...

Writing that stays with the reader...I think we're all pursuing that. :)

Chris Fries said...

@Grammy: Thanks for the visit and the comment!

@jessica: I think so too. It's almost like trying to consciously force it to happen is like going, "I'm going to be brilliant and creative starting... NOW!" It never works. LOL!

@Milo: Thank you very much! And I still hve that Amazon review pending I promised you -- I haven't forgotten!

@Alison: Very nice to meet you, too! Thank you for the visit and the kind comments!

@Nicole: Absolutely! And it can be a damn hard critter to catch! lol!