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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Loneliness as Story Theme by Kaye Spencer #PrairieRosePubs #blogabookscene #westernromance

We all have stories that resonate with us. They may be oral stories handed down through the generations in our family. They may be books we frequently re-read. They may be movies we've watched so many times we can recite the dialogue. What these stories have in common are five basic story elements that the speaker, author, or director have crafted so well that we never tire of the story. In fact, those stories touch us deeply, and we need them.

Theme is the glue that holds the story together. Theme is the message the author intends, consciously or subconsciously, to communicate to the reader. A story’s theme is generally a universal truth. It’s not uncommon for an author to write all their stories around one or two themes. As readers, we turn to stories with themes that “speak” to us. Think about those few special books that stay with you.  What is at the heart of the story that makes it so memorable? Identifying that ‘something’ can be elusive. We can’t quite get our hands on it, but we know it at an instinctive, visceral level, and we return for more.

I know my theme.


Not being lonesome, not being alone, not being lonely, but the utter hopeless agonizing heartache of loneliness. Loneliness shows up in every story I write. I can’t keep it out.

But where did this loneliness come from?

Perhaps it was my only-child upbringing until I was 13, or that I was a loner all through school (still am) with few friends. Experiencing a difficult mother/teenage daughter relationship may also have influenced my loneliness. Could my tendency toward loneliness stem from the traumatic brain injury I suffered at 18 and the resulting *holes* it left in my life from the loss of many of my childhood memories? Or did an early, and ultimately unsuccessful marriage, and then raising three children on my own have something to do with it? Other factors could have been my battle with clinical depression (eventually won that war) throughout my twenties and into my thirties only to have panic/anxiety attacks muscle past the depression.

Maybe there are no reasons.

Maybe it’s a combination of all my experiences.

Maybe it’s just how I’m hardwired.

However, in case you’ve grabbed a tissue—not to worry. I had a great childhood, and I’ve lived a satisfying, adventure-filled life. In fact, looking back through the years, there are few things I’d change, and I have even fewer regrets. I’m not lonely, so don’t play sad violin music just yet. ;-)

For your loneliness-listening angst, here is Marty Robbins singing Mr. Shorty, which is, at its theme core, a story about the hopeless isolation of loneliness. The verse beginning at 52 seconds is the part that gets to me.

Since the August theme for blog-a-book-scene is Alone Again, Naturally, here is a lonely excerpt from my recently published story in the Hot Western Nights anthology—Give My Love to Rose.


How many times had he heard the last words of love for a beloved wife and children, or a wish to see a mother one last time? Some cried. Others cleared the burden on their consciences. Most only had enough time to name next of kin. When you heard a person’s last words, shared their last breath, shouldered their confessions, you took on the duty of seeing their dying wishes taken care of.

This man, Lon Griffin, was no different. He’d clung to a thin thread of life, slipping between delirium and lucidity all through the night. His will to live gave out in the dark just before the dawn.

Any other time, Clint would have dug a grave right there, said the proper words, and then rode on to tell the family or sent a telegram, whichever was the faster way to convey the news. This time, though, Lon’s widow waited at the house a good many miles on farther north, she was probably wondering right now when she’d see her husband again. She never would, not alive, anyway, and Lon begged him to take him home to be buried in the family cemetery.

Haunted heartbreak clouded Clint’s eyes. That Lon left behind a family brought back his own loss. Nothing he possessed, not his guns, his badge, his physical strength, or his love had been enough to prevent the accident of nature that had killed his happiness in the blink of an eye.

Clint went about the pragmatic tasks of breaking camp and loading up his pack horse. He saddled his horse and Lon’s mule and then wrapped Lon’s body in a blanket and secured him over his mule’s back. Angling toward the river in the general direction Lon had explained would take them to his house, Clint thought of Rose and the image he created in his mind from listening to Lon’s delirious talk all through the night. He’d spoken of her with reverence that he’d done something right in his life to deserve such a woman.

Clint understood that. It was a lucky man who found a woman to be his life-mate. He’d been that lucky man once, and he didn’t have it in him to go down that emotional road again. Every now and again, though, a wish to belong somewhere and to someone stirred at the fringes of his heart as it stirred now. Maybe it was because it was the dawn of Christmas Eve. Maybe it was from sitting beside a dying man all night. Whatever the reason, the weight of his aloneness rode with him.

 Available on

As a writer, do you have a recurring theme that shows up in your stories? What is the force behind your theme?

As a reader, are you drawn to stories with certain themes? What about these stories speak to you so you keep coming back for more?

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Stay in touch with Kaye


  1. Kaye, you are such a warm and helpful person, always making time to help me out with my computer woes or others at PRP. Therefore I'd never have guessed about the tough times you've been through. You are a shining example to us all about kindness. Your excerpt is so full of raw emotion and brings back the memory of my last days with my mom, fulfilling a dying wish. I think we have all experienced loneliness to a certain degree, especially during the teen years when we are filled with so many emotions as we grow from child to young woman. A song came to mind, as I read your excerpt. I'm a huge country music fan, especially of the older generation, many of whom have passed on. Dwight Yokum sings a song about holding a man dying on the streets of LA. It's a song that tugs at my heart and my imagination. Dwight's a fabulous songwriter and I Sang Dixie is one of them. His words paint such a vivid picture. Thanks for a great blog, as usual.

    1. Elizabeth, I love that song so much. I played it about 10 times in a row the other day! LOL Such a good song!

    2. Elizabeth,
      Thank your for your kind words. Life isn't all cupcakes and puppies. Sometimes, the cupcakes are 100-yr-old Christmas fruit cake and the puppies are rattlesnakes. We all do the best we can to navigate what life throws in our paths.

  2. Kaye, it seems like now that you mention it, I have loneliness showing up in my stories a lot too. More the fact that the hero usually is a "loner" but he doesn't think of himself as lonely. HOWEVER, when the heroine comes into his life, he realizes what he's been missing and that's a huge component of their relationship. I really love your stories, and GIVE MY LOVE TO ROSE was just wonderful! (You know how I love Marty. Mr. Shorty is such a good song--just says it all.)

    1. Cheryl,

      I've always wanted Mr. Shorty to have a happy ever after. It is such a sad song. :-(

  3. Theme is so important and I always search for it in my own writing, since it can really help to focus a story. Loved the anthology and especially your story!!

    1. Kristy,

      Sometimes the theme is right there in my face. Other times, it hides behind a false theme and I struggle to identify it's true nature.

      Thanks for stopping in.

  4. Late to the 'party', but was called into work today.
    You bring up some great points. I think about theme when writing and realize most of my stories are about redemption and sacrifice for the greater good. It's not always in your face, but to me it's there.

    Thank you for adding to the 'story' of writing and being aware of what the underlying story really is. I also relate to the stories of childhood, they do keep cropping up, don't they. I know they do in my stories. Doris

    1. You're no later to the party than I am in responding, so we'll forgive each other. *grin* I think it's difficult to keep our childhood stories and experiences out of our writing. Those experiences made us who we are today.

  5. What a thought-provoking post. I think redemption has to be a theme in my stories-that it's never to late to make a fresh start and deal with the past. I'm sorry to hear that you have an underlying loneliness. I think most writers can relate, as we are solitary creatures.

    1. Redemption is a theme that shows up for me, too. Where there is forgiveness, there is hope, and hope has no limits. I've learned to embrace the loneliness aspects of my personality, and use it to my benefit...writing. *wink*

  6. I can see loneliness as a theme to many romance stories,. The classic example would be "Jane Eyre"--I mean, how much loneliness can one person bear.
    How brave of you to tell us about the loneliness that occurred in your own life that led you to understand that feeling so well it led to the creation of many of your stories. Empathy is at the heart of every author. Many of us have found ourselves in unsatisfying and lonely lives. I believe it has given us our creative spirits.
    I am certainly glad to learn you worked through and triumphed over the obstacles life presented in your life.
    I've read your work and I like the sensitivity you present in them to these emotional traits in your characters and their circumstances.

  7. Sarah,

    Loneliness is a theme for so many books and stories. Of classic novels, Jane Eyre might be number one. Other classics with a loneliness theme are Frankenstein, 1984, Hamlet, Les Miserables (also redemption theme), Count of Monte Cristo (also revenge theme), The Scarlet Letter, Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and Phantom of the Opera.

    I have worked through the obstacles that Life tossed in my path, and I'm the better for it.