Writing: The Influences
(Still in Houston. It’s hot, but the humidity is bearable.)
A reader who enjoys the action sequences in my books asked me how I write them, where did I learn this craft, etc. It got me thinking because earlier (yesterday? the day before?), Janine at Dear Author said in reference to Joanna Bourne’s The Spymaster’s Lady:
Since I know you are a writer I will say that all my rantings aside, I think this is a book writers should at least take a look at (the library is always an option) because the prose is just masterly. I say this since I am an aspiring writer myself… If you at all like it, you will be very glad of having read it, because the prose is worth studying. It’s that good.
My response, which is two comments down, is basically I don’t want to mimic other writers. I don’t do writing courses or workshops. I don’t read books on writing or plotting or anything else. Unlike most other writers, I avoid these things like the plague because I don’t want to (1) get bogged down with technical details, (2) copy another writer’s style (although, this method has been successful for some writers *cough*Sunny*cough*), or (3) get writer’s block because I’m comparing myself to another writer and find myself coming up short. (Other things in life bog me down; writing is supposed to be fun.) I learned spelling, grammar, and story structure in grade school and those basics haven’t changed. Thus, I think I have a fairly good grasp of the craft of writing. And my ego is fragile enough I won’t submit anything for publication that I think sucks, so I try very, very hard not to inflict bad writing on readers.
So, what’s my point?
I don’t want to be influenced by other writers, but a significant part of my writing–the action part–is influenced by the movies I watch. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know I’m a philistine (I’ve been using this word quite a bit lately) who HEARTS action films, especially those directed by Michael Bay. Mindless, fast-paced flicks with lots of mantitty, wisecracks, guns, and mega explosions. (Man, I feel an urge to watch Transformers right this moment.)
As I’m writing this post, though, I realized writing a story is a very visual exercise for me. I don’t lie in bed at night and think about the words I want to write; I have scenes, like clips from a movie, play in my head. I see and hear these scenes and then I try to put those sights and sounds into words.
(And the self-revelations keep coming tonight.)
In addition to action flicks influencing my writing, I’m also an avid comic book reader. Comics do not tell. Comics show. The best comics are concise but powerful. Actually, I think they are powerful because they are concise. A single cell can convey more than a thousand words. Characters in comics do not say they’re upset. You see the emotion in their eyes, the way they hold their bodies, the tension in their muscles. Comics do not have conversational info dump sessions. If a ruthless killer is introduced, you see that character actually killing someone in said fashion. You don’t have two other people discussing it over coffee (okay, sometimes you might). Thus, when I write, I’m taking the things I love most about comic books and employing them.
AztecLady paid me an awesome compliment when she said I show, not tell, in Rules of Engagement. To be honest, I don’t make a conscious effort to follow the show-don’t-tell rule. When I write, I’m conveying to the reader what I see and hear in my head. That’s it.
So, I guess I need to stop saying I write to explain the conversations that take place in my head. I write to explain the visions–complete with audio–in my head.