Friday, 22 June 2012

On Influences on Writing

Hello again, dear readers!
What's that? It's a little late for a Friday update? Well I suppose you're right but I'm the writer and you're the anonymous audience that doesn't get to have an opinion so there!

Today I wanted to look at influences.  One of the key things I've repeatedly heard during my life is that you've got to read before you can write - that reading is crucial to understanding literature (no matter how unconsciously) to the end of writing it.  This being the case, it follows then that what we read will influence what we write (probably because it's a favourite genre/style/etc.) Now, of course, one of the first things that comes off of this idea is the thought that you might just end up rewriting what you've read; or even just go along the lines of 'there are no new stories being told, just reinvented ones - (which a part of me is still rebelling hugely against.)  The thing of it is - yes, of course you could just end up becoming a regurgitator for stories but the fact is that imitation is a) a form of flattery - it emphasises how we appreciate the original; b) a practice of our own skills, no matter if the main ideas are just copied; and c) a potential gateway to creating your own works - through that work over someone else's.  I'd need to verify this and give you a quote to back this up but I remember hearing that the way Raymond Chandler got into writing crime fiction was by reading earlier crime fiction and then rewriting them as he would have done it.  It was mere imitation but it was good enough that he could go on to become one of the greats of crime fiction today (and a personal favourite for that matter.)

The important thing though is still that there is a progression past that first point of imitation.  Not to knock the entire 'genre' of fan-fiction but it is a prime example of how we take what we love and add our own spin on it.  However, fan-fiction, by definition, can only go so far; and writers have to go further to realise the potential they have.  You have to (to put it a particular way) deconstruct what it is you really love or love about the original, then, once you've realised that, go on to play around and off that idea to create something born from real, true passion/love.  If you love science fiction - why?  Do you love astronomy in general, technological progress, robots, speculative history, or do you just plain like spaceships?  Say you like technological progression, spaceships and robots, (which, yeah, I guess could all be put under the same term but shush) then there you could have freedom to play around with a universe that has spaceships with robots constantly running up and down it all the time.  Perhaps onboard is a science lab working on prosthetics, maybe that work hits a breakthrough and so it's first used on humans, maybe that first use goes horribly wrong and the ship and the crew are all threatened by the malfunctioning prosthetics - etc. etc.  Because of what you love you can create something you will also love.  It's a little like people; (in the old model) because you liked the person you were with you had a child with them because there was more to love; a child that is the product of yourself and the person you loved, that has been genetically crafted by the you and your partner, will be shaped by you, but is still essentially a separate creation altogether.

It may well be worth your while then, is all I'm saying, to look at what you read, what you really love to read, and to examine it a bit in order to create something you truly enjoy.  Of course we are all more than the sum of our parts but that is where we begin.  Human beings aren't just cells but we begin as cells that go to make up bones and muscle and flesh.  Science-fiction isn't merely spaceships and robots, but it can begin with technology that becomes robots and spaceships and artificial intelligence and the concept of humanity and the idea of a soul.  And so on and so forth.  Passion, love, enthusiasm, leads us to eagerly create more of what we love.  Consciously looking at what we really have a passion for is just good sense, then; and, in my opinion, being aware is a good thing.

Until the next time I rush something out to damage your eyeballs with,
I've been Neil.
Thanks for reading.

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