Remember that soul-swapping story I may have teased some of you with? Well, I basically finished the outline, so I can actually write it now and I am very excited. But here’s the cool part: there’s an actual summary!
One September night in Boston, two women are involved in a car accident. Jade Preston comes to unable to move, unable to speak, but able to hear and understand everything around her. Eva Fontaine wakes up to discover that she doesn’t look at all like herself. She looks like Jade Preston.
Eva was hit by a car, running from her estranged father at her brother’s wedding rehearsal and now lies in a coma. Except that Eva’s interior wakes up inside of someone else’s exterior—as she sleeps beside Eva’s childhood friend, Brixton Davis.
Brixton and Eva have a long, complicated history. They went to high school and nearby colleges together. They each had a parent commit suicide. Eva has stood by and watched Brixton fall into debauchery and depression after his father’s death. Brix has watched Eva stonewall her father, who deposited her and her siblings to their grandparents to raise. As adults, Eva lives in Paris and Brix visits her, desperate to be away from another failing relationship, they give in to attraction and familiarity.
Eva becomes pregnant. Despite this, she doesn’t want a romantic relationship with Brix. Two years after their child is born, Eva is commanded to attend her brother’s upcoming wedding and finally, it seems that the romantic possibilities open up for Brix and Eva.Except that Brix is involved with another woman, Jade, though the relationship has reached a stalemate.
But the accident changes everything. Unable to reconcile what has happened, Eva researches extensively, until she must accept that this is all real—that her interior has jumped into the body of the woman she thought of as an abstract figure. Jade endures a body in a coma and overhears all sorts of information about the woman she thought was cold-hearted and incomprehensible.
I’ve read that Audrey Niffeneger wrote Time Traveler’s Wife because she thought of time travel as a metaphor for her own failed relationships. Cecelia Ahern said she wrote P.S. I Love You because she wanted someone wiser than herself to tell her what to do and what to expect just as she was graduating college. Alice Sebold wrote The Lovely Bones years after she was raped as a freshmen at Syracuse University; another woman had been raped and killed there earlier and the police told her she was lucky to have survived.
I’ve never thought very deeply about the ‘why’ of my stories, of why I write them. As far as ‘why’ goes, I usually stick to why the story unfolds the way it does (and believe me, that’s a recent phenomenon on my part; read past blog posts for that). The themes tend to develop on their own, which is fine, but in high school, I remember that we discussed themes endlessly. Our teachers made it sound like they were all purposefully inserted and some of them are–at least with the more controlled, better edited novels–but I insisted then and still insist that a lot of themes just kind of…happen.
(As Sparknotes puts it so well, theme is the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a work)
I suppose knowing why those authors wrote what they did is going into “author’s intention,” which I despised discussing in lit classes. In my adventures in novel writing, I’m learning that the author can intend all she wants, but sometimes the development of the characters or the plot or themes are out of your control. And that’s fine, because some real gems can come out of that–in The Keegan Inheritance, I realized toward the end that Henry had seduced, then betrayed a French woman, seen her flogged by the French army and felt enormous guilt over that. It influences how he acts toward Mady, for one thing, and represents the reason why he wants to get out of spying so desperately.
“What the hell do you want to say?”
“Step into someone else’s shoes.” Sometimes, I wish I could be someone else, to have a wider range of experiences and emotions, to do things I will never get a chance or the guts to do and to meet people I’d never meet in my own sphere (or, that is, to meet said people and actually say something to them). Or to step outside of yourself for a minute to paradoxically see yourself better.
So, identity is a big theme. As is friendship. Overcoming obstacles. Spirituality and maybe even religion (gasp!). That’s all I’ve got for now. Do you guys have any themes you gravitate toward in the books you read? Or any themes in what you write? How important are the author’s intentions in the actual work, do you think?