I had an interesting discussion with the post-critique group last night. We were talking about personal tropes and the merits of working with them or against them. One person reviewed his manuscripts and saw that the themes of water, buoyancy, drowning, and suicide made frequent appearances.
Having recognized a personal trope, the question became are personal tropes something a writer avoids to prevent works from falling into cliche? Or does a writer develop a personal trope in order to work it like a poet works with the sonnet form?
The discussion turned to writers like Asimov and Vonnegut; you pretty much know an Asimov story when you pick one up -- so what makes Asimov's style work (as opposed to falling into cliche)? And yes, there was a brief envious stop where we lingered over writers lucky enough to have personal tropes in sync with a well paying market.
We wrapped up the discussion with a short foray into working with story. I'm struggling with a manuscript that has some specific images and scenes, but I can't get the connective plot into focus. So do I outline outline outline, or do I let the images roll in my head. There's something to be said for seat-of-the-pants writing, and it's how I write a lot of what I write, but it can take a long time and when there's pressure to produce produce produce a slower process can be frustrating. Sometimes I think I should just write poetry. Near the end of the discussion, someone who feels like he outlines the life out of his stories expressed the desire to move closer to my writing style.
Does your writing have a favorite or reoccurring theme? What do you do when you discover a story treading familiar paths?