I’ve noticed a few trends in my writing, types of characters that pop up over and over again in various stories, plots that I find interesting, etc.
There are characters like “the cold, dark, dangerous, beautiful girl with a grey morality” and “the benevolent immortal who’s lost everyone he loves again and again,” and “The loyal, strong, quiet soldier,” and “the absentminded, awkward scholar.” Strong, caring queens appear, and wary, angry vigilantes, and practical young witches, and charming, arrogant princes who learn how to be good leaders.
Plots that are repeated include “Princess’ father is a shitty king so she joins the rebellion to depose him,” and “Downtrodden, self-doubting girl is taken in by a happy family and finds peace and strength to stand up to the people who have hurt her” and “Woman gets fed up with the sexism in her country and starts an all-female group of warriors” and “Girl is part of a family tasked to serve an immortal being, helps him grow past his sorrows.”
They’ve grown in complexity over the years, but the basic concept tends to remain the same, and I cycle through them. My concept of good and evil has stretched and changed so now “Princess’ father is a shitty king” doesn’t mean that the king is a bad, horrible man who is mean to servants anymore; it means that he is, perhaps, more concerned with appearing to be a good king than actually being one, and he won’t make any hard decisions for fear of making the wrong one, so his country is falling apart, even as he’s nice to servants and keeps the taxes low. Romance has stopped being the main plot in my stories (I was a very silly ten year old) and has shifted to a subplot, so that the characters in my stories are more concerned with the problems of their world than their relationships.
Before, I couldn’t bring myself to have protagonists who would kill people or rob them without a really, really good reason, now I’m writing about a female pirate who robs trading ships and kills exactly one-tenth of the people there, as an example, and then presses a blood-red lip mark on their foreheads to warn them away. Diversity has increased, so that half of my characters have brown-to-black skin, and there are LGBT characters and even some gender-neutral ones.
My detailed, strong, attractive male characters who saved the swooning, vague damsels in distress have all but disappeared, now I have clever, vicious boys who are constantly at war with the just as clever and vicious girls, and the girls are acknowledged as better. I have kind, awkward scholarly boys who are totally in love with their fierce, soldier women, and also quiet, demure girls who politely and sweetly do not take any shit from their loud, booming warrior husbands, who are wrapped around their pretty little fingers.
I have become a better writer, but not a substantially different one, and I’m glad.