We are all shaped by stories. Not only do each of us live our own stories, but daily we are in contact with family and friends who share their lives and therefore their stories with us. Social media has stories to tell. We watch series, movies, listen to audio books, read … stories, so many stories. Some are real, some are fiction, some are stranger than fiction, and yet every story does shape who we are.
From a writer’s point of view, stories, yours, mine, everything read or heard, influences the tales that take shape on the page. Just as they affect daily life, thus it is for the book being gradually typed into cohesion – how not? We are, after all, the sum of all our experiences.
It’s true that writers read, and have read from an early age and usually voraciously; we, therefore, carry within us hosts of tales, and they do influence us. So, which stories helped shape my writing journey?
As you know, Fantasy is my first love when it comes to telling stories. I must then acknowledge the tales I read when younger and continue to read now, starting with Lord of the Rings, including the Hobbit, Silmarillion and more. Oh, I’m a huge fan! For instance, J.R.R. Tolkien’s sense of a quest? Tick. Fantastical creatures? Tick. Good vs evil? Tick. His mention of the first age, the second, and the age of man and so forth? Tick. Time plays a pivotal role in my work.
Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Funnily enough, I only read Wheel of Time after having written my first four books, and can therefore with honesty say that Robert Jordan didn’t influence my writing from the outset, but his imagination certainly did open vistas for me later. Of course, when Brandon Sanderson was elected to complete his series, I wondered whether it would work. It did, if you want to know. Mr Sanderson did an excellent job finishing off Wheel of Time.
I had just started reading Game of Thrones when the series hit the small screen with such impact. By then, other than the final two books, I had already done most of the work needed for my series. George R.R. Martin did not shape my writing, but he did reveal that it was fine to be dark in our stories. For the light to shine, our stories need to be dark, too.
If there is one series I feel needs mention, it’s J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. While I can’t say that Harry and his sidekicks influenced my writing, it’s true that when the first movie hit the big screen my kids were Harry’s age at the time, and year after year we went together to watch, across countries and even when my kids were too old to need mom at the cinema – it was a journey we wished to complete together! That sense of expectation and that wonderful acknowledgment of great imagination, well, that has helped me.
There are two more series I feel shaped my main body of work, and I read these before, between and after having completed my own series. The first is Steven Erikson’s Malazan Books of the Fallen, and I have to admit that this is my all-time favourite read. The Malazan series is deep, complicated, beyond all imagination, filled with so much emotion, so many twists … I am utterly blown away. In no manner have I emulated Mr Erikson (impossible), but he taught me that the layered, the complicated, the lessons in fiction, all of that is eminently readable, to not shy from it.
The second is Frank Herbert’s Dune series. I watched the original movie when younger (there’s another coming in December), loved it, watched the series later made for television, loved it, and only then did I start reading the actual series, years later. Oh my. Yes, I’m a Tolkien fan, and the Malazan books are my favourites, but Dune is incredible. Also layered and complicated and making statements referring to society (fiction goes where reality fears to read, after all!) and it feels both ancient and new simultaneously. That sense of time, the truly old and the brand, shiny new, has influenced my thought processes when writing.
Of course, as reader, I can go on and on about the books, movies and series that have influenced me … but this narrative will then be a thesis! As writer, I sometimes hope that my fiction is completely original, and then acknowledge the stories that have shaped so many of us, and thus they did the same for me. We are, after all, the sum of our experiences, and stories will ever intertwine.
Here’s to stories old and new! Enjoy every journey!