I don’t set out to write themes into my work, they come to life on their own, but that isn’t to say I’m unaware they exist. When they do I subtly enhance them later. Still, in the beginning, it’s about plot and characters.
Themes might not be part of the plan, but one reason the fantasy genre attracts me is how well it lends itself to examining them.
The latest to work its way into my fiction is female friendship. It first surfaced in the last half of Bk1 and then in a couple of short stories. In Bk2 it’s become a major theme.
I’ve addressed female-female relationships often in the past, but usually as sisters or mother and daughter (or adopted daughter). Thus, it was strange that I hadn’t written about female friendship before.
Ah, actually, I had…
In Bk1 my protagonist, Riparia Dellbane, strives to avoid friendships—with everyone (outside her horse, Doppla, which I’m not counting). She lives her life as a courier for the rebel leader, traveling from town to town delivering or retrieving messages for him.
She views the worst part of the job to be when forced to enter the larger towns and cities, each minute spent longing for the open road. Of course, it’s during one of those visits when life unravels.
Later, “displaced,” she’s assigned someone to help her. It really wasn’t until my last editing pass that I realized what I had, that their friendship was simmering and waiting to be explored, which I did.
In Bk2, female friendship (with a different woman) stepped more to the forefront, but it wasn’t intentional, and it certainly was a rough road. In fact, I placed two particular characters together because they despised each other (conflict!). Their polar opposite personalities and backgrounds were—wow!—the fuel needed for some great scenes.
Circumstances, though, intruded on my plans. Slowly, and despite setbacks along the way, their relationship started changing.
Well, that’d be telling the story, which isn’t fully drafted yet. What I can say is that for all their differences and, yes, flaws, they both shared a couple of attributes (besides being female): the capacity for compassion and an appreciation for how difficult it is to navigate their way through a society dominated by men, especially manipulative wizards.
My fiction (usually) features women as primary characters, but isn’t so one-dimensional and narrow-minded as to preach bashing men. In fact, the head of her personal guard, a man who possesses a considerable reputation for dispensing violent justice, regularly urges her to be the leader he knows she can be.
Oh, another theme: mutual respect (not that there aren’t a lot of characters who have no idea what that concept is). Another? People of varying backgrounds discovering how much more they can accomplish working together. Yet another? How family doesn’t necessarily mean birth family.
I’m excited to see where this goes. They aren’t fast friends—not yet, at least—but maybe they will be. It’s fascinating to see how they’re influencing each other’s personal growth. It’s too early to tell how it’ll all turnout, or even if they’ll both survive, but it’s going to be fun finding out.