Saturday 26 June 2010

Recurring themes

Has anyone noticed recurring themes in their writing? I don't mean plots, but themes, phrases, subplots. Because I have just noticed a rather alarming one in my novels: animal funerals.

How could I not have noticed that in all three of my books (the two puboished, and the WIP) there is an animal funeral? But there it is. As I buried my third animal yesterday, I realised that I had done it again. and this is probably not a good thing.

I've no idea where these anmal funerals come from. I'm not a great animal lover; I'm not especially preoccupied with funerals of any sort. I suppose it could come from years of pet funerals, courtesy of the tendency of my children's small furry friends to meet premature deaths (as often as not, courtesy of the cat). I suppose these were quite moving occasions. I remember the funeral of Wilfred, a hamster who unwisely went walkabout (and met the cat), and was buried with this touching little note (miss-spellings the owner's own): "dear Wilfred. I love you and I miss you very much. I hop you have a nis time in heven". And there was another funeral, where my eldest son goose-stepped down the garden, carrying the tiny corpes in a shoe box on his shoulder. I'm not sure he was taking this entirely seriously, but the bereaved owner didn't notice.

And then there was the time I buried the cat.

It was February, the ground was rock hard, and I could only dig a shallow grave. To add to my difficulties, rigor mortis had set in. Of course, I should have waited for it to pass off, but I was in a hurry. So there I was, with this very stiiff cat, its limbs sticking out in all directions. trying to fit her into her grave. Every time I had three limbs buried, the fourth would still be sticking out. Poor Marigold. She had led a relatively blameless (and very long) life, if you forget about all those murders, but her funeral was not a dignified one.

So maybe that' s where this all comes from. But now what do I do? do I get rid of the third funeral? Does it matter?


  1. I hadn't noticed this tendency for your characters to bury pets but, now you mention it, aren't there two animal funerals in Dead Ernest - the chickens Annie has unwittingly killed and Andrew's poor cat?

    As for my own novels, I appear to have a thing for statues (though not in real life, statuary mostly leaves me cold). In both Testament and the wip, statues figure large. Of the other books I've written, I can't think of any... I'm hoping it's a good sign for TB&TW.

  2. Whlst we're talking about pets in books - I have to say both my other half and I loved your dog nomenclature in The Birds... - The Dog, The New Dog and The Last Dog all reminded me of the way we used to name our farm cats - Mother, Kitten, Kitten-Mother...

  3. Thank you, Alis. I feel much better now.

  4. A brief look into the future:
    Pet Funerals and Rituals in the Works of Frances Garrood

    A Dissertation submitted in partial fullfillment of the requirements for the degree Doctor of Philosophy in English Literature

  5. PS Did you ever see Rene Clement's film "Forbidden Games"? All about pet funerals. (Well, and a world war.)

  6. I love it, David! Almost makes it worthwhile adding a few more funerals. I once sold a short story called Four Fuerals and a Wedding (the funerals were all animal ones; the wedding was that of the vet and the owner of the deceased).

    I'll look out for Forbidden Games.

  7. My novels all contain hangings or fires, usually both.

    Not something to boast about, really...

  8. Clement's film is a true classic. Heartbreaking.

    Meanwhile, it occurs to me that you and Tim could easily collaborate on a story where people lynched and then cremated pets. The plot line isn't obvious, but, hey, don't expect me to do all the work around here.

  9. Good idea, David. (Hang Dog Millionaire?) Are you up for it, Tim, or are you in mourning after Saturday?

  10. The World Cup only really starts when England go out. An end to pitiful jingoism and booing the German national anthem, and now we can concentrate on football.

    It's probably a good job England v Germany was not followed up by England v Argentina: the tabloids would have run out of ink...

  11. There are a lot of failed musicians in my books: bad pub bands, rock bands, awful singers, terrible guitarists. There's a secret clarinet player in my new one.