The story of a writer often begins with the story of a reader. It begins with a passion for the written word, a longing for stories. I consumed stories. I was voracious. I read far above my grade level, and below it as well, reading the books on my classroom shelf, my parents’ shelves, and the stuff my younger sister left lying around. At twelve I was reading Stephen King, and the Bailey School Kids, and the Redwall books.
When I read that’s all I do. I disappear. I don’t hear people around me anymore. I read until I have to stop, or until the book is done. I have burnt dinner. I’ve been late for work. I’ve stayed up far past my bedtime. When my son was born I read a lot while nursing. I tried to do this when my daughter was born but realized it wasn’t safe – I’d lose track of my then-two-year-old son. I put books aside almost entirely for a few years, only flipping through a few old favourites to satisfy my need for words, books I could put down easily because I knew what happened in the end.
Often people ask writers where they get their ideas from and I’ve written about inspiration and motivation before. I think before we have ideas for individual stories we have the idea that we can write stories. Something clicks inside of us and we go ‘hey, maybe I could do this’. And then the story ideas start. There’s still time to turn back at this point, still time to say, ‘no, it’s too much trouble, I’ll just keep my nose in this book’, and that’s what many people do.
For me that click very quickly became a need. I realized I had stories to tell, stories that were important to me, ideas I wanted to share. I often feel like I have no choice in this anymore. I must continue to write. The ideas come faster than I can record them. I have projects I will never finish, and more I will never even have time to start. I am driven by a need to reach out to people, to communicate across time and space and reality, just as so many authors were able to do with the books I have read.
I have been inspired to start and continue this journey by so many authors, big name or indie, local or international, best sellers or obscure. I cannot list them all, I cannot remember them all, but here are a few books and authors I recommend:
Misty of Chincoteague: my mother read this to us when we were young and I remember the cover. It was a hardcover edition from the library with this close up of a grey horse face and the mane flowing around it. It was magical and stuck with me even when I couldn’t remember the name of the book. I did find it back again and reread it in high school along with King of the Wind and Cinnabar.
MAUS: A difficult read, one I undertook at thirteen when we did WWII in school. One of my favourite books of all time. It was dark but somehow humourous at times. It was honest, about his father’s life and his own, even his own failings. I think it’s that honesty and the stark black and white style that grabbed me.
Stephen King, Tamora Pierce, David Eddings, Anne Bishop, Patricia Briggs, Mark Leslie, Geralyn Wichers, Marianne Curtis, George RR Martin.
And it wasn’t limited to books – I learned a lot about story telling from television as well. TV can teach you about pacing, character, cliff-hangers, and more, but it cannot teach you about sentences and words and paragraphs, for that you must read.
X-Files, Xena, Andromeda, Sliders, The Lost World (TV show and the movie), Buffy (TV show).
I find it fascinating what inspires people and what pop culture helped shape them and their voice/vision. This is just a part of my list. Which books/movies/TV shows/authors are on your list?