Guest post: “Subconscious Themes” by R. A. Meenan

Subconscious Themes

by R. A. Meenan


Let’s start by looking back to the last English class you took… For some of you that’s way back in high school. For some it was a college level class. Some of you might actually be in an English class right now.

Now think of some of the things you did in that class. Chances are, if you analyzed any kind of literature, you looked into the subconscious mind of the author in order to better understand why he or she wrote the literature that they did.

For example, why did Shakespeare write Hamlet? Many people claim it’s because Shakespeare’s own son died young. Or why did Ray Bradbury write Fahrenheit 451? It’s a well known fact that Bradbury feared that technology would take over our way of life and become so ingrained in our culture that we would one day stop learning.

Literature classes often encourage looking into the author’s mind while analyzing their work. But what about our own work?

We often write themes that we didn’t intend. People who read our books or short stories will get things out of the writing that we never thought possible.

When you look a little deeper into it, those themes become obvious. But those are just themes. They are large overlaying elements to a story. They generally take huge chunks out of the story. It’s what the story is “about” if you will.

But what about smaller elements? What about story elements that pop up unexpectedly? How does your subconscious affect your writing?

I learned something about my writing the other day. Let me explain a little.

The other day I was listening to a song that talked about the fantasy of childhood and the reality of adulthood. One line of it really struck home because it spoke about fathers. It said,

“My father said…
Don’t you worry, don’t you worry child,
See heaven’s got a plan for you,
Don’t you worry, don’t you worry now…”

So on and so forth.

I don’t know how many of you know, but my father passed away when I was only 12. My mother, by choice, did not remarry, so I haven’t had much in the way of father figures.

As I daydreamed about the song (I often daydream stories and events from my novels or with my characters while I listen to music) I realized something… None of my major characters have much in the way of father figures either.

Six of my major and important characters without fathers. That’s a lot.

And it got me wondering. Did I do that on purpose? Is my subconscious trying to tell me something? Is this a way for my mind to cope with the fact that my father is dead?

I wasn’t sure, until I took it a step further. Two of those characters above (I’m not saying who) get their fathers back. Is that my mind telling me it wishes my father could come back?

I know I didn’t do that on purpose. My father died a long time ago. I don’t really think about it much, at least on the conscious level. It’s really interesting to see how my subconscious has played a role in my writing. And I know this isn’t the only example of such.

Do you have subconscious themes in your writing? Take a look at your own writing. Look at a novel, a short story, or whatever, and see if you can find your own subconscious working on elements in your story. This could be based on previous experiences, events in your childhood, your preference in writing or reading… all kinds of things.

Good luck!

This post first appeared at R. A. Meenan’s blog. You can see the original post here.


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