Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Good Advice on Writing Part 3: Influences



"What one reads doesn't influence one as much as where one is. Still, a great many writers have had their effect on me. The serious ones were, I guess, Ford Madox, Joseph Conrad and Henry James. He was my idol, but to say he influenced me is absurd-- like saying a mountain influenced a mouse."
--Graham Greene
I want to spend this week's writing advice column talking about influences. Well, more specifically, I'd like to talk about the places I find inspiration for my own personal writing. When we say the word 'influences', we immediately think about other writers that we take our cues from in our own writing. But, the kind of influences I want to talk about today aren't writing related at all. Well, sort of. You'll see!
In the last few weeks my 10 year old daughter and I have decided that we're going to watch a show together every night. While perusing Netflix looking for a new show (we finished Pok√©mon) we came across Fairy Tail. At first I was like, "Great! Another dumb animated kids' show." But, I was immediately hooked. Why would I tell you about an anime adventure show when I'm talking about writing influences? Because this show is AWESOME! Also, because there are themes in this show that closely mirror the themes I choose to put in  my own stories. Despite the sometimes awkward sexual innuendo and the big-eyed anime slapstick, there are serious, heart-breaking themes that run through the entire show. Friendship, loyalty, and perseverance are the backbone of the storytelling. The world is built masterfully, bringing the viewer into the world of Fiore effortlessly. I WANT TO DO THAT! After only a few episodes I knew the major players in the show (the members of the Fairy Tail Guild) and I had already begun to care about them. I was itching to know their backstory, and the writers do a superb job of giving the viewer that story and making it EPIC. This show isn't filled with happy-happy, joy-joy, it has devastating and heart-wrenching storylines that build the 2 dimensional characters into 3 dimensional ones with feelings, doubts, regrets and unimaginable power.
I believe that most creative minds find inspiration and influence in everything about the world around them. A blue sky, a song on the radio, or a feeling elicited by a tv show, can all give writers the fuel they need to build amazing stories. Sometimes, the advice to writers is that they focus solely on their craft, but I heartily believe that writers need fuel for the creative fire. We can find it anywhere as long as we are actively looking for it. Don't be afraid to look for inspiration and find influence in the things that spark your imagination! There's a fine line between being influenced by something and wanting to copy it to achieve the desired result, so we also have to be mindful that we don't let our influences overshadow our own voice in our work. However, there's nothing wrong with loving a show, or a song, or a music video, and using the feelings elicited by that medium to make your own work more impactful. Study the artists who create work that moves you. Learn from that feeling that they create in your heart so that you can create the same feeling for your next reader!
That's it for INFLUENCES! I'm off to watch more Fairy Tail! Just remember, anything can inspire you if you're able to recognize it.

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