Everyone is different. What I think works in fiction might have some overlap with what you think works in fiction but, equally, we will have areas where we disagree. Imagine a beautiful Venn diagram. (Imagine it because I don’t know how to create one here.)
I am here to suggest, like Jack Palance in City Slickers, that you find what works for you in the fiction you read and replicate that in the fiction you write.
I do not mean plagiarism. I do not mean copying. I do mean that you should be inspired.
Recently I read my first Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays, and I was inspired. Knowing that I write slowly, I probably won’t use this inspiration for about 10 years, but it got me thinking about identity.
In Play It As It Lays, the main character, Maria, is an actress. She reflects upon how the women she plays on film look like her but are not her. Although she still uses her maiden name, people constantly refer to her by her married name. On several occasions, she is mistaken for someone else. All this serves to highlight Maria’s own struggle with depression, which struck me as being, at least in part, identity-related.
Identity is something I have already explored in my published novel and my WIP. In Ashes the main character, Eva, starts the novel with no identity but her name. Later, her sisters define their identities through appearance.
In my WIP I am exploring how identity can change with motherhood.
Identity as a theme is something I am drawn to in the fiction I read and a good theme for me to delve into in my own writing. I hope you have similar success with whichever themes work for you.