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Amazon Iowan

I'm always intrigued to find out what other writers feel their influences are, be they other writers, circumstances, or even something as nebulous as a color. Anybody want to play? Or is this unkosher, Jack?

I know I owe a lot to the first two Dragonlance trilogies, specifically the character of Raistlin. He got under my skin, and I think he exists in a way in every story I write, however subtle. Also, it got me hooked on fantasy. But I also owe a lot to the pulp 1980s Harlequins that littered my public libraries, because they taught me how to write about love & sex and relationships. No, seriously. Though, actually I think their greater influence was embracing the forbidden. They coupled with the granite pillars of being raised Lutheran probably made most of me right there.

Edukashun-wise I owe half my writerly self to Jennifer Crusie, who taught me to put some form to my emotional, chaotic mess, and aimed me at a lot of School of Structure. Like, McKee's Story. Also the immortal words, "it's the antagonist, stupid." Always good to have tattooed on one's forehead.

Woolier influences come from music and images. In the Deep Woo stages of creation, there is a shitload of music, usually very weird (and never predictable), and there are always digital collages of random images I steal from the net. This has always been the case, and sometimes I keep an image or song for years before it tells me why I picked it up. Also, I am srsly into Tarot for the same reasons. LOVE the pictures. Always get good things.

How about anybody else? What led you to this madness? Unless Jack says, NO, IOWA, SHUT UP.

5/3/2009 #1
drachenmina

Pratchett. Definitely Pratchett. And, at a guess, everything else I've ever read. Urban fantasy such as Harry Dresden and Rachel Morgan. I don't think I've ever read any classic male/female romance, unless you count Jane Austen.

And an awful lot of Harry Potter fanfic... *g*

Non-written word influences: Hm, probably Buffy. And the sparseness of my writing style I probably owe to my sodding family who won't leave me alone/stop trying to steal my computer... *hands over keyboard with very bad grace*

5/3/2009 #2
Amazon Iowan

I ADORE Pratchett, but he came too late to influence. So he's pure enjoyment. Also Buffy. Some of it. Not influence, but definitely enjoyment.

You know the weirdest influence that I just thought of? Disney long-playing records. (And here, Heidi shows her age.) I have a gazillion of these, the stories condensed and put onto records with some pictures to look at while it reads. Fairytales, too, but the LPs started it. They also warped the shit out of me, which is handy because it's something to work against.

5/3/2009 #3
Sychaeus

Oh, Pratchett is amazing. I find i use a bit of a wry, humorous tone in bracketed asides sometimes, which i reckon is his fault entirely.

I find a lot of my word choice is influenced by poetry, and rhythm. Often if i'm trying to write dialogue these days i'll have the pattern of speech and syllable in my head before i know what words will be spoken. I get alot of ideas from where i read, as well. At the moment it's Mythologies, by Roland Barthes. It's a bit of a critical look at larger Mythologies, and how personal stories and identities interact with them to form personhood, so i've been trying to weave little vignettes into mythologies, like typical 'warrior' and 'masculine' mythologies in short stories. It's fun =)

Um, also, I found a few years ago when i was writing stuff for here, it was based heavily on my own, current experiences - what i went through with highschool, and later uni. hmmmmmmm. Oh, of course. Fanfiction. Fanfiction is probably the majority of what i read now, just because it's so accessible and so Awesome! and such. I have a lot of respect for authors in certain fandoms who manage to write amazingly detailed AUs and crossovers that make the characters more real and three dimensional than a serialised TV show. I find as well that fandom is a great place to practice new styles and recieve critique for it, and to find new styles. So i'd say that finding things like the "five ways" vignettes in SGA and SPN and Due South fanfiction has had a lot of impact on how i structure my short stories now.

And of course, comics and suchlike- Ben Templesmith's "Wormwood" was a huge influence, Stephen King and Isaac Asmimov and Isobelle Carmody and Jennifer Fallon, in terms of authors i liked, and shows like The Dresden Files, Star Trek and Star Wars, and Red Dwarf. Hum.

5/4/2009 #4
drachenmina

Um, Heidi? Pratchett came too late to influence? What are you, dead? *g* OK, I think I know what you're getting at - you didn't read him in your writerly formative years? Me, I think I'm still soaking up influences like a big spongey thing. Of course, I've only been writing for *counts on fingers* a year and a half.

I confess to feeling distinctly unliterary when when reading of some of the influences cited by people here. Poetry? That's that stuff wot rimes, innit?

And god, yes, Sychaeus, experiences! I totally forgot that one! Yeah, I've used a lot of stuff from rl in my writing. :D

Mina

x

5/4/2009 #5
Amazon Iowan

I aten't dead. (Couldn't resist such a perfect setup.)

Oh, I'm sure he influences me, but not on such a deep level as other things. But his POV isn't mine, I can't do his humor. . . the only thing is that I think I Started Capitalizing Things after I started reading him.

I feel like I should confess that I am rather a fanfic virgin. I've read one Doctor Who story where Rose & the Doctor Had To Have Sex, and one Harry Potter where Snape did him all through the years, and in the end they lived happily ever after. I don't even really have opinions on it one way or another. Just haven't really read much.

@Mina A year and a half! Wow. Are you having fun? I'm so jealous. To be just starting? Is it all heady and wonderful? The world your oyster, etc?

5/4/2009 #6
drachenmina

*has to wear sunglasses because of teh shiny*

Yep, Heidi, it is all rather wonderful right now. Particularly in the world of origific, which I confess I only joined a few months ago. Truly, the world is the mollusc and/or crustacean of my choice... well, maybe. It's interesting, finding out what I can and cannot do (the former being dialogue; the latter being, um, everything else)

Mmm, fanfic... if you're interested in what I've penned in the HarryPotterverse, try this:

http://drachenmina.insanejournal.com/82891.html

I could link you to masterlists of my stuff, but I'm sure you don't want to wade through all that. ;D

It's kind of weird, really. My big problem at the mo is working out how to keep track of longer stuff - apparently I have quite a small brain, the capacity thereof being only suitable for short stories. And also, stretching myself by trying to write stuff like action scenes. I don't think I'll ever be big on the descriptive prose stuff *cannot be arsed*.

5/4/2009 #7
Amazon Iowan

I agree utterly with the first commenter. :) As for masterlists, I'll take that one over to yaddayadda, because it ties in with something else I'd been wondering.

This: "It's kind of weird, really. My big problem at the mo is working out how to keep track of longer stuff - apparently I have quite a small brain, the capacity thereof being only suitable for short stories. And also, stretching myself by trying to write stuff like action scenes. I don't think I'll ever be big on the descriptive prose stuff *cannot be arsed*."

Funny, I can do long easier than short: am working to get that balanced out, but it's real work. Though the program I use (Scrivener) to write totally helps with the big idea such. I think that comes from the early influences being fairytales and then the big fat Dragonlance sagas. I'd have been influenced by Tolkien, surely, but I didn't get into him until the movies came out, and I had to WORK to get past that damn introduction.

I am not one for the descriptive prose. Ever. I skim it mercilessly, or skip it entirely when I read.

5/4/2009 #8
Rosestoo

Since college I've pretty much been in the world of short stories because they are sooo much easier to read while being blindsided by classes and papers and all that other crap. (:D I read my first novel in a year last night, I was about to cry with happiness!)

To be a huge dork, my original influence in third person past was Tamora Pierce. I started reading her books when I was in Elementary school and went "I like this style, she has a good set up for introducing a world and characters...Imma gonna try that :d" and that’s pretty much as is. I also bat my eyelashes at Lynn Flewelling's Night Runner's first chapter for world and character introduction. (I used to/sometimes still have a real concern about character introduction and how to settle in a new world for readers)

China Melville was the unwitting inspiration for my very first horror story with his short story "Details" --read this, its short and just awesome. I'm also quite fond of Charles De Lint (I believe I like his older stuff more than his newer fiction, however, but I need to read more and reread it to make sure).

I love~ fairytales, myths, and folklore. For my few attempts at longer stories I have whole book lists of factual texts that have influenced the stories.

In particular: A Quiet Manor was inspired by Icelandic Law Codes, Norse Mythology, Snorri, and so on.

Southern Hospitality is all early modern European ideas mixed into a twisted urban modern fantasy and its book list is all about gender in early modern Europe and the late marriage pattern that influenced it all. (I know that likely makes no sense)

I've also been inspired by some travel and funerals, though so~

@Amazon Personally, I really love a good short story. In some peoples hands, not all, I've seen good long stories become convoluted and bloated as they meander around. To write a good short story you have to really work it (in my biased opinion) because you only have so much space to flout your stuff, your characters, and your world. Asside from that XD I think we're opposits--Description whore, alas.

5/5/2009 #9
Amazon Iowan

@Rosetoo Tamora Pierce--isn't she the one who did the Darkangel series? God, I loved that one so much that I eventually tracked down and bought the third volume in the trilogy just so I could finish the story. I remember checking out the first one, reading it, and being OH MY GOD shocked and delighted in the most delicious way. I remember thinking, "You can DO THAT?!" (I was thirteen, or younger.)

I completely agree with you that short stories are harder, which is why I'm working on getting into them--as in, writing. It's taking some focus and shifting of my head. I'm picky, but when I like them, I love them. You have to have stronger character and conflict, I think--it's a smaller window, and it had better be to some interesting view, or people won't buy it. With a novel, it's so damn big people can be fixated on your amazing curtains and the sheer size and fail to realize you're looking at an unremarkable view.

5/6/2009 #10
Jumping Jack Flash

I have two kinds of influences -- the ones I try to emulate, and the ones I try to 'fix'. Or sometimes mock. I am a natural trope-subverter. I can't see a thing done badly without wanting to try doing it well.

In the former camp, Joss Wheedon is the big one. I study his work quite seriously. He's a master of trope subversion, tension, pacing, balancing comic and tragic, and throwing in wild and sudden plot twists without making you feel cheated. I want to be Joss Wheedon when I grow up.

Terry Pratchett's another big one. He's trickier for me to learn from, because his method of description doesn't quite work in a non-comedic story, but his characterization is masterful. Someone once said, "Hemmingway was Hemmingway; Shakespeare was everyone else." I'd put Pratchett in the same category as Shakespeare on that count. He studies humanity in a way that you can only do if you love people, and it's clear that people really delight him. Even bit characters, which other writers treat as sort of 'NPCs' and barely bother to visualize, are authentic and charmingly quirky in Pratchett's work.

Other writers I love and try to learn from: China Mieville (worldbuilding and atmosphere), Neil Gaiman (interesting detail, use of mythology), Neal Stephenson (pacing, tight plotting), Carl Hiaasen (quirky characters, authentic details), Tony Hillerman (landscape painting with words), and Elmore Leonard (funny tough-guys, dialogue like whoa, satisfying but non-moralistic endings).

As for the anti-influences, the two big ones that come to mind are the Elric books and the 'Magic's Pawn' series. Note that I don't name the authors as anti-influences; Moorcock and Lackey are both pretty damn good at some things. But their Faggy Doomed Heroes are hilarious fail. When I was fourteen, I adored those books, read them over and over until they fell apart. About a year later, I tried to reread them, and realized that the reason I had loved them so much was because they were pretty much designed to appeal to an adolescent sensibility. And I resolved to never ever write something only a fourteen-year-old could love.

Thus began my lifelong quest to figure out precisely what is Fail and what is Win in the hero-protagonist department, and not just avoid it, but play with it like a pet tarantula. So if you're an avid fantasy reader, you can probably look at any of my stories and guess what tropes I'm taking the piss out of on a per-character basis. :D

5/6/2009 #11
Amazon Iowan

You know, I'm with you on the "fixing things done wrong," Jack. I mentioned Raistlin, but I got angry with the second trilogy because his "love interest" was so godawful I wanted to crawl into the book and choke her dead. In hindsight, my first few works were fanfic. But I was conscious even then that I couldn't just rewrite other people's work. I thought I'd get in trouble. So I morphed off into my own gig, and away it went.

I am with you and not on the Joss Whedon. I love his characters. I am less excited about his long arcs, and his need to be SHOCKING!!!!!!!! and whatever the fuck that was in Dr. Horrible has pissed me off, and I'm saying I'm grateful for Buffy and leaving the rest for others. Well, Firefly, but not Serenity.

As I consider this further, I'm realizing I've consciously stopped letting things influence me too much over the past decade, and when I let it in, it's deliberate. Starting around 2000 I just felt too "full." Starting around 2006 I deliberately ran away from all craft discussions for the same reason. It wasn't that I didn't think it was important, but that if I didn't shut the door, I would drown in Too Much.

Agree about Gaiman. American Gods, Tom Jones, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay are my there top novels, and I never know how to arrange them in order of preference.

5/6/2009 #12
intergal

I'm unsure if there are authors who I specifically emulate when I'm writing, but I do have authors that I would like to be able to write like, and ones whose writing style I intend to avoid like the plague. The line-up also tends to change, depending one whose works I've been reading.

The current good list includes: Jennifer Fallon, Mari Asakasa (the sex scenes in 'Vibrator' were a but lulzy at times, but she has an interesting way in examining people's minds), Jim Butcher, Robert Graves, Yuuko Tsushima, Brian K Vaughan, Brian Michael Bendis (specifically 'Powers'), Sergei Lukyankekov and Neil Gaiman. The current bad list is mainly Stephanie Meyers devoid of Otherness or just about anything else, and Sara Douglass' obsession with "let's make the protagonists' lives as hideous as possible, cos that's real drama/conflict!!"

5/7/2009 #13
Jumping Jack Flash

@ Iowa: Oh yes, Raistlin too. Had such a crush on him when I was... er... still proud of every new pubic hair. ;p

I don't play flip-the-archetype with him quite as often as I do with, say, Elric, but my reaction to him does show up in a few of my characters. Most recently Doctor Welling from Kastor book 3. Rook Rainhart stems somewhat from that source as well. Of course, 'amoral, physically weak genius' is a pretty old trope, but the very personal way Raistlin got dicked around by divinities caught my imagination, and made me want to reach into the book and FIX his dumbass reactions. He was just so... reactive, you know?

So I try to write my amoral genius characters with either a coherent life goal -- which they do not allow circumstance to distract them from -- or, if they're freestyling it, aware of the fact. Rook has no goal in life other than to amuse himself while he waits for tuberculosis to finish its work on him, so he doesn't get particularly worked up about anything. Betrayed by a love interest? Oh well, dying anyway. Falsely accused of treason? Oh well, dying anyway. Marooned on a desert island? What interesting bugs, I think I'll make a sketch. Whereas Welling has a mind like a scalpel, and when gods and heroes and whatnot interfere with his goals, he uses his intellect to either turn their interference to his advantage, or get around it as neatly as possible.

Ooh, which brings up another topic I should make a post about at some point -- writing characters smarter than yourself. It ain't easy. :D

@ intergal: You mention 'Otherness' as if it's an established trope or concept. Care to expand on that?

5/7/2009 #14
Amazon Iowan

I need the "writing characters smarter than yourself topic.

I've several times wanted to reread the Dragonlance series, but I'm afraid to. I did that with a few key romances which influenced me very heavily in high school/college, and the effect was devastating. There's nothing worse (to me) than realizing you've moved on from a book, if not the story. But maybe I'd be surprised. I do know I couldn't read anything past the first two trilogies--the story was done for me.

@Jack: I need to go read your stuff. I've only read metanoia. Think I'm guilty of "saving." Ever do that? Realize something is good, and you don't want to ingest it all at once?

What I loved about Raistlin was that he knew he'd ruined himself on his own, and he owned it, but only to a degree. It was so beautifully warped. I loved his arc in the second trilogy. LOVED him going dark. I don't remember the end, exactly, because I think I didn't quite like it, but I loved his realizations about himself. Crysania, though, I could have choked with my bare hands. Simpering bitch.

@intergal: seconding the Otherness request. I think I'm with you, but I can't articulate it in my mind.

5/7/2009 #15
intergal

Writing characters much smarter than oneself sounds fascinating. :D I think I need it too.

ARGH. Otherness. This is something I've been learning about this year, but it's mostly been to do with nationality in Japanese media, but I am aware it can be applied in many different ways. I don't know how well I can explain it, so please bear with me.

Wikipedia would have us believe that it is 'the philosophical principle of exchanging one's own perspective for that of the "other."' So in very simple terms in the example of Horror Otherness where humans are the main characters, the Other is usually whatever supernatural force, creature or situation is plaguing or interacting with the humans.

So basically one of the big things that annoyed me was the representation of vampires, because they are meant to be predators and sexual agitators, and Meyers essentially neuters them and fails to create this sense of agitation or frisson between her leads. I hope this helps clarify things, but I could rustle up some good vampire-specific 'otherness' examples if you would like. I kind of had a bit of a ponder about this on my writing LJ, I'm a bit of a literature/movie vampire nut XD.

5/7/2009 #16
Jumping Jack Flash

Oh yeah, that makes perfect sense, and you're absolutely right. And quite a lot of mediocre or poor writing does that -- takes the 'other' and turns it into 'just like me only better'.

5/8/2009 #17
QDuck

I think the best kind of 'other' comes from cosmic horror, although that's got it's own problems too.

5/8/2009 #18
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