Friday, August 5, 2011

Writing Influences

Hi all! Welcome to another GPF. Today I welcome Theresa Milstein from Substitute Teacher's Saga.

She's also one of my older bloggy friends, so please go say hi for me. :-)

Writing Influences

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post “Reverence for Rowling” that discusses why the Harry Potter series made me become a writer.  Certain influences came together to start my story.

1.  The whimsy of Harry’s magical world in comparison with the darker fantasy books of my childhood, made fantasy much more appealing.

2.  I’d seen the author Melissa Glenn Haber speak.   She mentioned that many fantasy protagonists are orphans or somehow the parents are absent.  I thought it would be nice to have a fantasy book that dealt with the relationships between children and their parents in the realm of a fantasy book. 

3.  I used the quirks of the place where I grew up as a setting.

Thus, my first manuscript was born.  I’ll admit the story borrows a little too heavily from the Harry Potter world.  But it got me writing. 

Each of the stories we write are inspired by several factors.  They can be books, songs, overheard fragments of conversation, a NEWS story, or something from our personal lives.

My most recent short story, “My Moment”, which will be included in the Tiny Dancer anthology in October, had a number of inspirations.  It’s boggling that so many influences could’ve come together in a short story.  

1.  I had just watched an episode of “Toddlers and Tiaras”.  One mother admonished her daughter for dancing like a stripper.  That horrifying line stuck in my brain. 

2.  Then I got the opportunity to write a speculative fiction piece.  I read the back of the book, Like Mandarin, by Kirsten Hubbard, which mentions child pageants. 

3.  I recalled XVI by Julia Karr, where she created a society based on the sexual availability of girls ages 16 and over. 

What if I wrote a story 200 years in the future where beauty pageants were a way for poor girls who couldn’t afford college to find well-off husbands?   A story was born.

Writers, will you share you story influences?

Thanks so much for stopping by, Theresa

If anyone still wants to guest post before the end of the year, you better move quickly. I only have two more Fridays left. Contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com if you're interested.  


  1. Great post! A lot of my ideas come from my weird dreams mixed with my weird life.

  2. Great post Theresa! I too, am influenced by everyday things that I come across. It's great that there are so many things that inspire writers to create and expand into a story. :)

  3. My brain is like a sponge...I never know what splashes out.

  4. Yay for hosting the fab Theresa Milstein, Misha! She's just lovely and yay for her short story publication too!!!

    It's amazing what infuences a writer to write a story! It could be a throwaway line picked off from the telly, a face in a crowd, a funny looking tree! I would therefore say my story influences are everything that catches my senses and stays lodged in my brain where they are hopefully kept fresh by my muse! LOL! Take care

  5. Great post, Theresa. My cats that I have had are my inspiration to writing my children's stories. Sometimes, a word or a phrase just pops into my head and I write. I recently met and heard Jonathan Clemens, an agent speak who said that you should write what is your passion.( among other things) So true!

  6. Hi Misha - good to see Theresa here .. Something catches my attention .... a conversation, an idea from the radio, or tv, or magazine or newspaper, or book, or posts from intelligensia bloggers - and then I add a little history, a little education and occasionally a little bit of me .. Cheers Hilary

  7. Great post! I'm with Theresa - ideas are everywhere. For me, stories are born when a few ideas come together to make something new - just as she described here!

  8. I've probably had hundreds of influences, but it was Tolkien who made me love the written word first.

  9. I always love to hear about writing influences. It's not the same as writing under the influence, which I have tried.

  10. I love reading about writing influences...a lot of my ideas just drop into my head..sometimes while I am reading or watching a movie..a story or a scene idea just pops into my head.

  11. Many of my influences come from my many years as the hostage of catechism class and Star Trek. Hence my many worlds of angels, demons, Nephilim, and other aliens.

  12. I'm with Theresa too- inspiration and ideas are everywhere and it's amazing how we can combine things to find something new!

  13. This talk of beauty pageant stories reminds me of Tyra Banks' new novel "Modelland" which is due to come out soon. When I read it I stared at the blurb thinking...really? And then horrified, I read the excerpt.

    It's so bad (in my humble opinion). Oh but it shall make millions I'm sure. It's Tyra Banks!

  14. Hi Misha and Theresa!

    Wow that idea knocked my socks off--awesome!!! It's always very organic, ideas, and could be as simple as hearing a convo or a news story!

  15. What a great post. My manuscripts are usually a mix of so many things that come at once that I rarely know what the original idea was.

    Nice to meet you, Misha.

    Happy Weekend!

  16. It is interesting to note the places our writers' minds take us. Thanks for sharing this part of your journey!

  17. Influences can come from anywhere and everywhere. When I first started writing my biggest influence was Tolkien.

  18. Great post, Theresa, and thanks to Misha for hosting. :D

    Anything and everything inspires my story ideas. Once, it had been raining for days and there were huge puddles everywhere. I thought what if those puddles could take you somewhere? My ideas usually start with a "what if" question and grow from there.

  19. There are so many things that influence my writing. That's why I keep my eyes open to all kinds of possiblities.

  20. Hi Theresa, Hello Misha,

    Thanks for the great post, I go around and if I see two people fighting or a husband and a wife snapping at each other, then I start thinking, what if? Why? And if I could write about this, then? Adding this bit here or there?

    But then I don't try to write these days so I end up reading as usual!

  21. You "younger" writers (younger than I) have such fertile imaginations, especially for the extraordinary, i.e. 200 years into the future and other fantastical topics that get triggered by "ordinary" things in the world about you. Many are influenced by Rowling, and she was influenced by others before her. Your stories, Theresa, sound wonderful. And thank you, Misha, for hosting her today. I am so drawn to both of you!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

  22. I love it how stories can be born of several thoughts linked together. That spark is born and voila!

    Great post, Theresa!

  23. Interesting post on influences Theresa. My main influence is Ernest Hemingway (which I recently blogged about) and various female authors like Anita Shreve...anything to inspire our writing.


  24. Really interesting how many things came together to influence your story Therese! It sounds brilliant. (and What a thing to say to a little girl!)
    I'm going to have to read Harry Potter now! I must be the last person in the world unaffected...

    My influences -I've been reading Murakami so I'd say I feel freer to include more of the unconscious and dreams now in my fiction, which I do any way, but reading someone who does it so well almost gives you a blessing to get on with it! Also love Atwood, and Carter, and Sara Waters and Perraults fairytales.

    Go Theresa, keep up the good work!

    Love your blog Misha, looking forward to having a look around:)

  25. Great post! I love how things that are seemingly random can be connected in an amazing story idea.

  26. @ Shelly, the manuscript I'm querying now is a combination of a dream I had after overhearing a conversation.

    @ Amy, I agree. We writers pay attention to these details that could be story-worthy, which is the difference between us and everyone else.

    @ Em-Musing, a splashing sponge - love the image!

    @ Old Kitty, our muses are vital! True, our ideas can come from anywhere.

    @ Choices, I loved your cat-inspired stories. Too cute!

    @ Hilary, your posts are well-researched and interesting. And you always find fabulous photos to go with them.

    @ Susanna, it's amazing how a few things come together to make a story, isn't it?

    @ Matthew, you and a few others were inspired by Tolkien. And I still haven't read him!

    @ Bossy Betty, ha! I've also tried writing under the influence. Too many typos.

    @ Rachna, I agree. Writing influences can come from anywhere.

    @ Maria, Star Trek? Interesting. I haven't written any Sci Fi yet.

    @ Samantha, I agree. I have been influenced by a detail in a book, but my story is my own.

    @ Michael, I haven't heard of Modelland. Now I have to look it up! I stopped watching Top Model after they didn't pick Alison. She was a visual inspiration for a vampire protagonist I wrote a couple of years back.

  27. @ Christina, so true! I'm amazed over how each manuscript I've written is inspired by such different things.

    @ Carol, interesting. Sometimes I don't know some of my inspirations until afterwards, but often I get a couple of influences and add a, "What if?"

    @ Karen, I agree. Thanks for reading and commenting on the post!

    @ Lynda, Matthew was inspired to write by Tolkien too.

    @ CherylAnne, I just wrote about combining it with "What if?" a couple of comments back! A traveling puddle sounds really clever.

    @ Stina, we do have to keep our eyes open. As the false Mad-Eye Moody says, "We must be vigilant!"

    @ Nas, I'm in a reading phase too! I've been thinking about the piece I want to write and I've been playing around with an old piece, but I've been reading like crazy!

    @ lbdiamond, thank you!

    @ Ann, you've written memoir, which is a totally different beast. I bet it's a different inspiration.

    @ Lydia, it does make a spark! It's like rubbing 2 (or more) sticks together to create a fire.

    @ L'Aussie, JK Rowling inspired me in a big way, but as you can see in this post, little bits of other books can influence me too. Thanks for sharing your author inspirations!

    @ WordsADay, thanks for sharing your inspirations. If you read Harry Potter, you must tell me what you think!

  28. Thanks for sharing your influences Theresa! Oddly enough, my favourite (LOTR of course [g]) hasn't influenced my genre choices at all; I write MG and romance. But it did influence - or deepen, I should say - my love of language and history.

  29. Misha, what a great question to ask Theresa, and, Theresa, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to learn more about your writing this way. It doesn't take much to get my imagination going--something I've experienced, a dream in the night, something I've read or just a really good "what if."

  30. Hi, Misha, Theresa! I love how all the inspirations came together to create your story, Theresa. All you need is that one quick thought, and then poof! A story is born!

    I couldn't even begin to list my influences. Things just attack my brain and demand a story written about them. It could be my dog, something I saw on TV, or a conversation I had with a friend.

  31. What influences? An overheard conversation. A character I spy at the mall or out to dinner. A dream. An image in the clouds. A phrase. A great word.

  32. It's always great to see how a story takes shape. What great influences!

  33. I have seen the 'Toddlers & Tiara' horror show, and it scares me. Interesting how something gets created.

  34. Hi Misha .. that's good this works and inspiration comes from all over doesn't it .. stunted plants, troublesome lives ..

    Enjoy Sunday .. cheers Hilary

  35. Great guest post. Going over to say hello now.

  36. I'm always fascinated by writers' inspirations! A lot of mine comes from The Daily Mail, which I probably shouldn't be admitting!

  37. @ Julie, it's true, those ideas do start off seemingly random.

    @ Deniz, I think indirect influences are important too. It's probably better for our favorite authors to inspire us in indirect ways so we're less likely to copy them.

    @ Lola X, thank you!

    @ Michelle, the manuscript I'm querying now began with a dream, a conversation, and a "What if?" There's probably always a good "What if?" to get us going!

    @ Marlena, snippets from varying places probably influence unconsciously. If I had to take all of that into account, this post would be way longer. Misha had a word count limit!

    @ Jean, those are all great influences! I think I've used them all too.

    @ Carolina, I like hearing how other people get their ideas, so I thought I'd share a few of mine to get people started.

    @ Susan, I've heard child pageants are spreading outside of the US. That's unfortunate. It IS a scary show.

    @ Hilary, I'd like to hear which piece you used for those two influences.

    @ Rebecca, thanks for visiting!

    @ Talli, your books are a commentary of that aspect of society (at least your first one was and it seems the media will play a role in the second one). Hey, whatever "research" we need to do, right? Who am I to judge? I watched "Toddlers and Tiaras".

  38. It's always fascinating to see where ideas come from. My very first book started from memories of my childhood. I just got the urge to write and starting writing. No plan. No plot. Just words on paper. It was so much fun to write!

  39. There are so any writers that influenced me that I couldn't list them all here, but some of the most influential ones have been chick lit authors. I'd been struggling to figure out what I wanted to write and how I wanted to write it until I started reading chick lit, and then it sort of felt like I was coming home, if that makes any sense.

  40. Hi Theresa ..

    Stunted plants - on the mosses and lichens .. and toxic metals .. how they can regenerate .. and rementioned in my Dear World Space Shuttle recent post .. and then there's the baobab tree

    Troublesome lives - Robert Hooke, whom Newton it is thought might have tried to write out of history .. there are three posts - on the play, on the history and on the playwright writing the play ..

    Lots of thoughts ... Stirling Castle Skeletons is another .. an archaeological mystery (real early Medieval Ages life) ...

    And so on ..... cheers Hilary

  41. An interesting post. Always like to hear from other writers.

  42. Wonderful insight to how your mind works. And I agree, influences are everywhere we simply have to see their story. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  43. Great post! I guess mine come from noticing a little thing in a different way that is so interesting, I build everything around it.

  44. @ Janet, thanks for sharing your influence. My childhood, feeling and relationships, always make it into my stories.

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, I bet chick lit is a nice break for you since doing a dissertation probably doesn't put a lot of chick lit on the list. I agree - a genre just fits.

    @ Hilary, thanks so much for returning and sharing the specifics.

    @ Carole, I love hearing from other writers too. Fascinating to know what makes them tick.

    @ Jules, I think the more we look for them, the more we find. Like loose change!

    @ Peggy, I like the way you put it - noticing little things and building everything around it.

  45. My writing has been influenced by many different sources and authors. I'll have to give this some thought as the "Sparkfest" that is occurring in a couple of weeks deals with this topic. I'll come up with some answers during the week of August 22nd.

    J.K.Rowling has been such a big influence on so many writer. She should be honored.

    Tossing It Out

  46. Great post! I get inspiration a lot of different ways. Sometimes it's a random idea that pops into my head. Sometimes it's a dream. Other times it could be something someone says or something I see. All kinds of stuff! It's great how one little seed can grow into a whole book.

  47. I think Tom Robbins is my biggest influence. His books are so fun and irreverent yet meaningful. It was the first time I realized that there really are no rules.

  48. Hi, Theresa,

    Those influences do come from all over the place. News items and snatches of conversation help me quite a bit with my story inspiration.

  49. @ Arlee, thanks for the comment. I'll keep an eye out for your Sparkfest entry.

    @ Alexia, you sound like me. Yes, little seeds grow into a whole book! It's amazing.

    @ Missed Periods, my husband likes Tom Robbins.

    Did you just say "no rules"? As long as you're not talking about grammar!

    @ J.L. Campbell, we can pick interesting snatches of conversation. Not that we're eavesdropping or anything...


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