Mar 14, 2011

What We Like To Write

It seems every few weeks or less I inevitably find myself strolling through our local used bookstore and although there is a backlog of books on my shelves at home, I’m always eager to buy another hardcover or paperback.  It’s a selective process, but as I glance at the numerous titles, my mind is pulling up a mental catalog of books I’ve said I would always read while another part of my brain is hoping for that bingo! moment when the list matches what’s on the shelf before me.

Like a lot of life, our book buying habits tend to form patterns and odds are you’ll find me in the Fiction, Sci-Fi, Horror, Young Adult or World History sections.  Having said that, I realized awhile back that the subjects I like to write about tend to be the same or similar to what I read.  My first novel, Shrouded Path, is a young adult novel with a bit of a Chinese historical element tossed in for fun.  Many of the previous stories I’ve written have trended towards Sci-Fi, Horror, and Historical Fiction.  Coincidence you say?  I think not!

Hannibal Lecter made an interesting self-characterization when he stated, “Nothing happened to me…I happened.  You can’t reduce me to a set of influences.”  I would beg to differ though with Hannibal about the effect of childhood influences (and you’ll know what I mean in his case specifically if you’ve read “Hannibal Rising”).  Sometimes it’s said we are what we eat and in the same manner, we are what we read.  Some of my favorite authors include Banana Yoshimoto, Amy Tan, Isaac Asimov, Orson Scott Card and Stephen King to name a few.  Growing up, I watched Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, James Cameron and a host of other filmmakers.  To me these people were the dream makers, the ones who conjured fantastic worlds out of thin air or scared me so badly I couldn’t sleep at night.

When I began writing as a kid, naturally I first started by imitating those influences.  I poorly wrote a few short stories about an archaeologist who travels the world (sound familiar?) and also sketched a few lousy issues of a commando comic book hero who saves earth from aliens.  Of course, as I grew into an adult I learned a lot along the way including the idea that while imitation may be a form of flattery, it does not always lead to finding one’s own voice.  Have I now abandoned those sources from which I initially true inspiration as a child?  Of course not, but I’ve learned to use them as a starting point in my writing, not the end goal.

There’s an argument out there which states there’s no such thing as a truly original story, merely original ways of retelling them.  That may be true, but if the stories we create have been told before then I’m prepared to have a lot of fun retelling them my way.

Do tend to write about the same subjects you read?  Who are some of your influences?

Photo Courtesy of Exsodus