Changes of Influence

makoto shinkai tgow
Source, Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words

The other day I was thinking about how my writing influences have changed over the years.  My current influences — the works of Makoto Shinkai, the novels of Haruki Murakami, numerous YA authors like Rachel Hartman, Susan Dennard and AM Dellamonica, and genre authors like Yoon Ha Lee, Ann Leckie and Becky Chambers — are quite different from the influences I had about twenty years ago when I was first writing the trilogy.

In addition to that, some of my old influences don’t seem to inspire me all that much anymore.  I find that particularly interesting.  It’s not to say their works haven’t stood the test of time; it’s more that what amazed me about them doesn’t seem to catch my eye now.  I’ve moved on to other styles and stories.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s partly due to the way time moves on.  What was breathtaking to me then seems a bit old hat now.  It could be caused by oversaturation — after all, Hollywood is certainly known for making a eight hundred different flavors of the same Explodey Action Film, right?  Or it could be overindulgence — I stopped reading dark fantasy and cyberpunk a long time ago when it just didn’t excite me anymore.

But there’s always that one thing, the make-you-stop-in-your-tracks book or film that changes the game completely.  The Matrix is definitely one good example.  Your Name is another one (for me anyway).  Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary trilogy are also very good examples.

That seems to be the only constant for me over all these years; the books and films that don’t just blow me away but make me rethink my own writing processes.  These are stories that are told, maybe not from a fresh or unique perspective, but are so different from the status quo, that it reminds me: you don’t have to play by the rules, you know.  They’re stories, like Your Name, that are so intricately woven with life (yet done so unobtrusively) that I’m emotionally and spiritually moved by the level of detail put into the work.

This constant is what influences my writing the most.

And the amazing thing about all of this is that, maybe five or so years from now, my influences will have evolved even more by something that hasn’t even been written or filmed yet.  Something will pop up that will make me rethink the whole game all over again.

I have to admit, I’m looking forward to that.

Fresh Perspectives

guitar

One of the first things I chose to do the day after The Balance of Light was released was to set one of my guitars to an alternate tuning.

No, really.  All my guitars have been in the usual standard EADGBE tuning for years, and over the last few years, I’ve noticed that I’ve been playing the same damn chord progressions and melodies for far too long.  I love writing new songs, but I haven’t been inspired enough to come up with that many new riffs that I haven’t already used elsewhere.  I figured it was high time to change it up.

My six-string Taylor acoustic is now in the DADGAD alternate tuning.  This is for two reasons:  one, so I’ll finally force myself to learn how to play it that way, and two, so I’ll pick up that guitar more often.  My sister’s a big proponent of this tuning as she loves the versatility it provides.  I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, and now that I have the time, I made the move to get started on it.

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So what does this have to do with writing, anyway?  Why am I posting this here and not at Walk in Silence?  Well, mainly because I’m doing the same exact thing with my writing, now that I have the time to dedicate.  After years of focusing on the Mendaihu Universe and everything that goes along with it, I suddenly find my brain with a lot of extra processing power again.

So this means that I’ve decided to take some steps that I’ve been wanting to take for quite some time now.  The pre-writing work for Meet the Lidwells! has included a full outline — something I’ve nearly always avoided in the past.  I’m also playing around with the post-production work early on, since I already have a good idea of how it’ll look and where I think it might sell.

I’ve been reading a lot of different authors and genres lately.  I’ve been picking up on the varying styles and moods.  I’ve been figuring out how to write a much smaller standalone book with a much smaller cast.  I’ve been paying attention to how different races and genders are written.  Part of this is so when it comes time for me to write something similar, I’ll do it correctly.  Part of it is also because of my fascination in how stories are told from different cultural perspectives; I’m so overly familiar with how Americans tell stories that my own start to sound a bit…bland, so I’d like to try writing my stories from a slightly different perspective.

[Noted, I’m sure someone somewhere will complain that I’m falling into SJW territory, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I won’t write my novels purely for political reasons, because I already know I’ll fail miserably and they’ll read like crap.  The only reason I want to write from different perspectives is because I want to.  End of story.]

What else do I plan on doing to freshen up my outlook?  That’s a good question.  The Day Job does kind of keep me from playing around with my writing schedule, though there’s still room for shaking it up a bit.  I wake up early on the weekends whether I like to or not, so perhaps instead of draining my phone battery trawling the internet or watching several repeat cycles of the local news, perhaps I could use that time for creative endeavors.

I’ve also been extremely lax on my artwork, especially over the last year or so!  I’ve got some fresh pencils and pens that I’d love to start using again.  The art process has always been an enjoyable and calming one for me and I don’t utilize it nearly as much as I’d like.  I’d also like to be a better artist than I currently am, to be honest.  I’m okay, but I could be a hell of a lot better at it.  Same with my photography.

Will any of this end up in my future novels?  Sure, why not?  My reading a crapton of music biographies inspired the interview format for Lidwells.  My immersion in music inspired a fresh outlook on my writing.  My photography is sneaking into my side project of creating book covers.  And my knowledge of art has definitely helped me visualize scenes when writing.

Now that I have more time, I’m really looking forward these new perspectives.

Yes, They’ve Been Done, But They’re Still Fun

I’ll admit I haven’t been up on movie watching over the last few years for one reason or another.  It could be my tastes have morphed somewhat, being that we’ve mainly been hitting documentaries, Studio Ghibli movies, and imports.  I haven’t gone to see a good throwaway popcorn movie in ages.

That said, I’ve been hearing reviews on the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending, and the takeaway so far has been “oh god it’s a hot mess but go see it!”  Here’s the trailer:

I finally got around to watching said trailer about a half hour ago, and found myself both concerned and amused that I saw a parallel between it and my Bridgetown Trilogy.  Both contain an alien Origin Story (i.e., where did humans come from?), a female Chosen One character (some kind of savior to keep Earth from going kaboom), and a War for World Control.

When you’re a writer who’s trying to sell a novel you’ve carefully crafted for years that you’re currently trying to sell, and you see a Hollywood movie with parallels like that, you tend to have a moment of oh crap, someone beat me to it!

And then I realize–those three points are everywhere.  I’m not the first, nor the last, to use the alien Origin Story, a Chosen One and/or a World Control plot.  Time to calm down a bit.

I mean, much of the Mendaihu Universe in its early days was influenced by 80s and 90s SF movies and anime anyway: the Gall Force series, Until the End of the World, Strange Days, The Fifth Element, Johnny MnemonicThe Matrix and its sequels, Akira, and so on.  They might not be for everyone–some people see these kinds of stories as over the top and ridiculous.  Sure, there’s an element of the fantastical in the Mendaihu Universe, but that’s often what these kinds of stories are about.  And besides–Jupiter Ascending might be over the top, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not entertaining.  Pacific Rim is ridiculous, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

So that’s why I’m not exactly worried that Jupiter Ascending is getting sort-of-panned by the critics and the public.  I’m not going to pretend my Mendaihu Universe stories are superior or better executed…I’m pretty sure parts of my universe are a hot mess as well.  But my aim wasn’t to write a perfect story–it was to write an entertaining and thoughtful one.  That aim is more important to me.

Of course, now that I’ve seen the trailer for this movie, I definitely want to go see it. 🙂