After years and years of false starts, I'm finally building up a decent body of work. And when I look at it all together, and the ideas I have for future work, it stands out that I have some themes I keep coming back to. In Ways To Fall Apart, a girl takes an overdose, in 3,000 Miles of Arizona, Josie is a cutter, in Out of Control, Evelyn has an incredible supernatural power, which she uses to hurt herself. In my current work in progress the main character is once again a cutter.
I have to say though, at no point do I feel like I'm repeating myself. It's easy to mistake things like self-harm and depression, any mental health issue really, for a plot. If that was the case, my work would be incredibly repetitive. Instead it's true to life, it's part of the character. There's going to be times when it affects the plot, but it'll always be a part of something bigger when it does. In 3,000 Miles, someone discovering Josie's self-harm does kick start her part of the story, but it's about the characters involved, such as her parents and how (badly) they handle it.
In the future I want to keep writing characters that do deal with realistic mental health issues while dealing with the actual plot of the story. Those of us who want to write about these kinds of themes have all begun stories with only the 'issue' but no story. You don't get very far most of the time. I have a read a couple of books like that, and although it's good to see some coverage, it can be frustrating and in extreme cases, damaging. When we write these stories, we mostly aim for people who can relate to it, who are already at least a little aware and want to learn more. But you also have to write as though someone who has no idea is going to read it and you might be helping them to build their awareness up from nothing.
When I'm actually working on a story, I try not to think about anyone reading it, (I think that can be enough to paralyse most writers completely!) I try to think about what I would want to read, and then I hope that works for other people. So far it seems to be working, but I know I have a long way to go to keep learning about all this myself.