I think many writers have favourite images which somehow crop up in different works; for example, Ruth Rendell, the crime novelist had a scene where a detective went to interview a woman, and Rendell described the inside of the house where the woman lived with her daughters. Hanging from a picture rail was a red dress on a hanger. The dress had no significance, it was just part of the description of the room. In another novel by Rendell, different characters, different scenes, different situation and story-line, there was the same image, a red dress on a hanger hooked onto a picture rail. It was so striking that I remembered it from the first book, and it made me smile a little to see it here again; had she forgotten she had used it before with all the novels she had written? Who knows!
Rendell wrote over sixty-five novels in her long life, so repeated images are not surprising; I have written about fifteen – I’ve only been a full-time writer for the last four years – but in those fifteen or so novels, have I repeated myself at all, used images, phrases, descriptions which I have used before without realising it? Probably!
Rendell wrote a long series of novels, twenty-four which ‘starred’ the detective Inspector Wexford and much of the narrative in these novels is told from the detective’s point of view – sometimes there are other points of view, and other story-lines followed separate from his, but much of it is from his perspective. I have written a short series of novels, the Radwinter novels, and there is one narrator, Thomas Radwinter. Because Thomas is telling the story, and it is written in the first person, there does need to be a continuity, his ‘voice’ does need to be consistent, so I have deliberately included ‘repeats’ not just of things Thomas can remember, or images he uses, but trying to have a consistent speech pattern, even though his character changes dramatically over the series as he leaves his first wife, finds new love, becomes a father.
However consciously I write, whatever I write, I wonder how many unconscious things are included which I am not aware of, and which even as I edit my work I don’t ‘see’, as Rendell didn’t see the red dress hanging from the picture rail?
If you want to check out which images I’ve repeated, or read about Thomas Radwinter, then have a look at my novels available on Amazon: