I read once that authors write the same story over and over again. The setting and characters might vary with each book, but scratch the surface and the themes and ideas are the same.
At the time I didn’t agree with this, but as I look back over the books I’ve written, a clear theme begins to emerge. Nearly all my novels are about characters who are isolated in some way (prior to publishing Omniscience I wrote under a pen name).
In Omniscience the characters are forced to flee from the city to the Australian outback. In my other books, they find themselves alone in remote cabins, forbidding mansions and even on a desert island for a reality TV show. In my current work-in-progress (historical fiction) my main character spends several chapters alone in a cottage in the woods.
I’m not the only one who is drawn to isolation. It’s common in many bestselling novels. Some examples are Where the Crawdads Sing, The Road, I Am Legend, Life of Pi and The Old Man and the Sea.
Isolation for Authors
As an author I understand why isolation is so compelling in fiction. It forces the characters to draw on their inner resources, and this is ideal for drama and growth.
Being alone can be scary, creating suspense and thrills. It also does away with the hassle of having to include extraneous characters which are needed for realism in everyday settings.
The other reason I think isolation is so popular in books is because a lot of authors are introverts and HSPs. Personally, I love nothing better than being alone or with a few other people at most. Busy and crowded settings overwhelm me, and I become scattered pretty quickly.
I dream about escaping to somewhere truly remote with only the trees and birds for company. It’s not surprising that when my imagination is set free it always takes me in this direction.
Solitude for Readers
I suspect that a lot of readers are also introverts. It comes with the territory really. Reading is a solitary activity that requires the ability to live inside your own head for extended periods. To do this, you need to be in a quiet place with no distractions.
What reader doesn’t dream of curling up in front of the fire with a good book and a hot beveridge? The only suitable companion for this activity is a dog or cat.
Introverts don’t fear isolation, we crave it because we need time to live in the world of our imagination. This is how we recharge our batteries. In our hyper-connected culture being alone is usually portrayed in a negative way. This is reflected in books where characters who are by themselves are often frightened or miserable.
As any introvert will confirm, alone time doesn’t have to be lonely or scary. It can be a truly fulfilling and regenerating experience. I’ve attempted to capture this in my current WIP Moonshadow by having a protagonist who truly relishes her own company.