RTW: Recurring Literary Elements

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What themes, settings, motifs, scenes, or other elements do you find recurring in your work?

For my non-writer readers, let’s begin with a few simple definitions (thank you, Wikipedia):

THEME – the unifying subject or idea of a story.
SETTING – the time, location, and everything in which a story takes place, and initiates the main backdrop and mood for a story.
MOTIF – any recurring element in a story that has symbolic significance, a repeated theme or pattern.
SCENE – a unit of drama, provide the building blocks of plot for short stories, novels, and other forms of fiction. 

Themes I tend to favor: overcoming guilt, first love, romantic heartbreak, reclaiming happiness after loss. Settings I love: the Pacific Northwest in general, any location near a body of water, cars (why? not sure…), and I certainly lean toward stories set in the present day. Favorite motifs: water, windows, sweet foods, fire. And scenes I always include: a first kiss,  a first fight, and a first make-up. 🙂

What elements of literature recur in your stories?


40 thoughts on “RTW: Recurring Literary Elements

  1. sarah says:

    First kiss in the Pacific Northwest with a campfire! Yes! 😉 I love the themes you include, I find myself leaning toward several of those also.

  2. Ian Hiatt says:

    I’m with you on the fire, Katy. Not necessarily in a destructive sense, though. I always like to think of fire as a new beginning. Sort of a phoenix situation. 🙂

    • katyupperman says:

      I agree! I used a bonfire in the final scene of the WIP I’m working on rewriting. It symbolizes light and warmth and a fresh start. I love the idea of a phoenix. 🙂

  3. Bridgid Gallagher says:

    Love these, Katy! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    I tend to write stories that involve a lot of outside time, with the main protagonist (always a girl!) grappling with nature. Snarkyness is a must, plus kissing and awkwardness. 🙂

  4. Jillian says:

    Great list! It actually includes a few elements I’ve been TRYING to incorporate in my writing; I recently moved to the Pacific Northwest and would love to write about what I see out here, and I really need to start having more romance in my stories, since I hear it’s kind of a big deal in YA… 😉

    • katyupperman says:

      I’m all for the romance… it’s why I write. 🙂 And welcome to the Pacific Northwest! I think it’s a beautiful spot to set a story, and there’re so many activities and so much beautiful scenery to draw inspiration from.

  5. Angelica R. Jackson says:

    Water seems to be a recurring motif in a lot of our books, and yet I’ve never been conscious of there being “too many YA books set near water”. Maybe it’s such an archetype that I don’t notice it?

    And my first real kiss was in water! Ahh, summer nights in the swimming pool, sigh

    • katyupperman says:

      Now that you mention it, I do read a lot of books set on or near the beach. I love it though, so no complaints from me.

      And hello?! First kiss in the water? I bet that was memorable. 🙂

  6. Chantele Sedgwick says:

    First kisses. Swoon. Always have to have those. I love present day, beaches and first loves as well. Recovering from a broken heart, or finding love where you least expect it. 😉 Great post.

  7. KT says:

    Yes, I love bodies of water! I have no idea why!

    I would love to write something in the Pacific Northwest. I love cold and rainy 🙂 Maybe for this shiny new idea I have floating around in my head…!

    • katyupperman says:

      It is a very good mood-inducing location, especially on those dark dreary days. The story I’m revising is set during a Pacific Northwest summer (at the beach!). The weather in the summer months is usually quite beautiful. 🙂

  8. Alison Miller says:

    Yay to first love! And first kisses! I have a lot of that going on in my stories too. It’s interesting that you write about the Pacific Northwest and I always place my stories in North Carolina. Guess we’re drawn home. I tried setting a story in a different place once. Just didn’t feel right.

    • katyupperman says:

      I like to set a story somewhere I’ve lived or at least spent lots of time so I can include all those cool, rich details. If I’m not familiar with a setting, I feel like I’m just groping around in the dark. Oh, and one of these days I’m coming to visit you on the east coast… love that area!

  9. Nadja Notariani says:

    Hello, Katy! Great question. I’ve only completed one novel, but I have a novella about 70% complete…so there’s not too much to back up my ‘data’…lol.
    Theme ~ Romance, romance, romance…(my favorite)
    Scene ~ First kiss/romanctic encounter & Realization that love has dawned.
    Motif ~ Fire, and action of some sort. (My fist book has an MMA fighter & the second has a fight scene of a different kind! hmmm…maybe I’m a Roman?! Ha!)
    Setting ~ ‘Old World Feel’


    • katyupperman says:

      Ooh, love that you write lots of action and fights. My stories tend to be a bit quieter, but one of these days I’m going to branch out (maybe just for fun!) and write an action packed adventure. With romance, of course. 🙂

  10. Lindsay says:

    Ah, interesting topic. I’m not sure on this one – I think one could potentially be bad weather. For some reason, not only do I like to write when it’s storming, but I love to write bad weather into books too LOL.

    • katyupperman says:

      Ooh, I love to write in bad weather too, especially to convey mood or a particularly intense scene. Conversely, it’s almost always sunny during my happy scenes… maybe it’s time to mix that symbolism up. 🙂

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