Influences of a Writer: From where does inspiration spring?

To quote a character in a Rodger Zelazny novel “If I knew I would walk over and stand there”. I love that line, although I do have an idea where my inspiration comes from. It is a short walk to my bookshelves. The things I love to read and the genre’s I prefer to write in creatively are tied together. I was thinking about the stories and authors I love to read and how I got turned onto them at a young age.

I was interested in fantasy from an early age having read and enjoyed the Narnia series. Then I was given the Hobbit, followed by the Lord of the Rings and my love for fantasy was cemented. I have read those once a year since I was about 11 years old. By the time I was 15 I was reading the Silmarilion yearly as well. Then I was introduced to the aforementioned Rodger Zelazny. He wrote both sci-fi and fantasy and sometimes both, (which is difficult to do well.), in the same story. His Amber books are what hooked me. After the late great Zelazny I found Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, Frank Herbert’s Dune series and sci-fi became cemented in my favorite genres for reading pleasure. After sci-fi I was then introduced to classic horror or gothic romances with Bram Stoker and Mary Shelly, Frankenstein and Dracula in the original forms. I branched out to Stephen King and my love of the horror tale was cemented at that time.

Creatively that is where my obsession lies. Fantasy, sci-fi, horror, they all are genres I have played with and enjoyed doing so. Some would say they are all in the same realm as the fantastic stories. Either way those are where I get my reading pleasure and inspiration to write. Interestingly enough I was introduced to all of those mentioned and more by my brother John. The first book I read in any of the genres I listed was given to me by John starting at an early age. He was the one who passed on the knowledge of these wonderful worlds that I could explore and have explored ever since. Thanks John, it is appreciated every time I sit at my computer to write, or pick up a book to read.

These are thoughts on some of my own inspiration and influences, what about yours?"Alas! Poor Yorick...I knew him well"

Thoughts?

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Thankful for Books, based on television and movies…

English: Logo from the television program Star...

English: Logo from the television program Star Trek: TOS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can, and have complained about movies not living up to the book they are based on. It is a common occurrence that happens far to frequently. Books made from movies/television, is an entirely different thing. With adaptations from movies to books, the original can be enhanced. They are usually based on the screenplays the movies are made from so it will fill in gaps that may have been in the movies due to edits. As long as the writer has a good grasp on the characters, the book will be a fun ride.

Adaptations from television shows are even better. Again, the writer needs a good grasp on the character’s, (most writers who write these are fans of the shows so that helps.) and with that you can read new adventures and drama from beloved character’s. It is a win win. Star Trek has many books adapted from the shows that are amazing adventures that follow the cannon. The X-Files also has a few that build off of the show. Hercules, Xena, Doctor Who, they all have book series based on the show that are fantastic. So if you are looking for something new from an old favorite, try these adaptations. It is well worth your time and can bring further enjoyment from shows you have always loved.

Thoughts?

Thankful for books- And the hero’s who give us hope…

Yes, in the villain post I pointed out that villains can be the more interesting characters. That does not mean we do not want to see the villain get his ass kicked.

Voldemort was entertaining and fun to read, but when he got what was coming to him you want to cheer, right. The end of the villain is the climactic ending most want to see, even if it is not the actual ending of the book. Remember the Walking Dude in Stephen Kings, The Stand. That scene where he gets blown up may be the only scene in any book where you cheer a nuclear bomb going off. The villains keep the action and drama going so their demise, or arrest, or  comeuppance is always welcome in a well written book.  The more evil the bad guy/gal, the more complex and strange that character is, the more payoff when the end comes. When the battle for Narnia was won and the White Witch was done, it was satisfying, right? It may seem obvious, but it I do not think it can be overstated how important a satisfactory ending for the antagonist is. For that you need a good Hero.

I mentioned Gandalf in the previous post and he is the ultimate Hero. He is wise, strong, a wizard and almost unstoppable. When he is stopped, he comes back, which is exactly what a hero should do. It gives us hope. He is not that complicated, not really. He is someone who cares about everybody, that is his job no matter how hard it gets or whether anyone appreciates it or not. Aragorn and the Rangers are the same in The Lord of the Rings. No one knows much about them but they are the ones that keep darkness at bay. They believe that is as it should be. Harry Potter s an interesting hero. Flawed? Certainly, but it is very satisfying when he finally gets his shot at Voldemort and it works. Done deal. Something else that the end of the villain is good for. A satisfying wrap up. I like stories with a good wrap up. After the climax, housekeeping for the remaining characters if you will. More on that at another time. The whole story, not just the wrap up, is good if the antagonist is good. Otherwise the story will fall flat.

Do you think the villain has to be smacked down by a great hero, or not?

The only character who appears off-screen in t...

The only character who appears off-screen in the show is Jadis, the White Witch. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thoughts?

Thankful for books, and the villians, who is your favorite?

Grendel, Grendels mother, Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, Sauron, Saruman, Khan, Medea,Voldemort, Professor Umbridge, Hannibal Lector, Lord Foul, The White Witch (Jadis),  and, well,  I could go on and on listing all of the good villains and monsters in literature that are the linchpin behind the actions of the stories.

Lets hear it for them!

They are either the driving reason for the plot line, or they are taking advantage of the protagonists issues making things worse. But, done correctly, a good villain can be more entertaining than the protagonist. In a strait across good against evil story, often the bad guy is the more fun and interesting character to read about. Take Gandalf, an excellent good guy. He is smart and wise, powerful and someone who is exactly who you want on your side. Compared to Saruman, however, maybe not as interesting. Don’t get me wrong, Gandalf, for me, is one of the greatest hero’s in literature, but Saruman, a traitor who came from the same place as Gandalf? How did that happen? There is a mystery surrounding him that makes one wonder. You don’t wonder about Gandalf’s character.

Or Beowulf, the archetypical hero. Strong arrogant, quite literally set the bar for fantasy heroes. Yet Grendel, and Grendel’s mother? Don’t you wonder about them more? We all have favorite villains who titillate us, frustrate us, or scare us, and isn’t that the reason we keep reading?

Who are you favorite villains in your favorite books and why? Are they more interesting than the main character?

Thoughts?

Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Br...

Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Bride of Frankenstein as Frankenstein’s monster. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thankfull for books, suspension of disbelieve, no really, believe me…

The phrase, “the willing suspension of disbelieve” was first coined in 1817 by Samuel Coleridge. He was trying to revive the older tales of drama and fantastic that had fallen out of favor with the “age of reason.” He believed that if you could have “human interest and a semblance of truth” in a fantastic tale, it would be possible for the audience to enjoy the story and put aside their disbelieve for the duration of the tale. I believe he was correct, and will go so far as to say it is a necessary part of enjoying any good work of fiction.

In a good work of literature, if the characters support a good story then it is an easy thing to go along for the ride. Whether it is fantastical, mythical, or even a modern day crime drama, with good characters you can buy into the less realistic aspects of the story. This s not as easy when watching movies however.

During a classroom discussion about this topic, the teacher pointed out a scenario that makes the point nicely. If you are watching the second movie in the Lord of the Rings series, The Two Towers, and just before the big battle starts and the two armies are facing off… then the Starship Enterprise flies down and blows up the orcs, saving the day, would you buy it.? Probably not, you would be yelling with everyone else that is not realistic, there is no starship. Except, the whole story  of wizards, orcs, dwarves and elves, isn’t exactly realistic now is it? None of those things exist either.

Movies are harder to pull off the wiling suspense of disbelieve, and that is why the fantastical has a harder time selling in the theaters than books, and mixing the scientific and magical, as was done in the example, is almost unheard of in movies. Mixing genres seems to be something people have a hard time with. (See, Cowboys and Aliens.)

Yet in books it is easier to mix genres, or get into the fantastic and magical, because it is our own imagination that is fueling what we see. As I said, as long as the characters are engaging and the story is good, bring it on.

Thoughts?

As a footnote if you are interested in mixing genres, Roger Zelazny did it like no one else in his Amber series. Or Jack L. Cha

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

lker was excellent mixing magic and sci-fi.

Thankful for Books- The power of the written word and bearing witness…

Among the many reasons to be thankful for books is for the incredible help and support they can be. I am not just talking about being transported elsewhere, another world for awhile. There are many books that can educate and inform you about things you may never have know about. Information can change a life don’t you think?

The Bible, the Torah, and the Quran are among just a few of the religious texts of the world that have had huge impact for the enlightenment of the reader.The power of the written word, right there.

Then from personal experience, the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book, or the N.A Big Book, have had a huge affect for the betterment of many thousands of peoples lives and will continue to do so. Many people I can think of, (myself among them), have opened that book just to find out we are not alone. The power of the written word, right there.

Elie Wiesel wrote about his experiences during the Holocaust and his time in Auschwitz in Night. It is a horrific story of what happened to the man, and as readers we are bearing witness to what those times were like and should never forget. It is kind of the point of those books, beyond, I would guess, being incredibly cathartic for the person to release those memories. The power of the written word, right there.

Experiences of home life and childhood can be of huge importance to young adults. Take Dave Pelzer‘s book A Child Called It. He writes about the horrific abuse he received as a child and this has had an immense impact on other children to help them realize they are not alone, as well as allowing the rest of us to bear witness to such horrific things and to remember, to perhaps help fight against such things. The power of the written word, right there.

I could continue on for many thousands of words, about many books of empowerment, enlightenment, and  plain bearing witness, and you may even read them all. I am however, interested in your thoughts. The power of your written words.

Your thoughts? Your words?

English: Dr. Mashkevitch and Nobel Peace Prize...

English: Dr. Mashkevitch and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thankful for Books-Even E-Books? Yes…

English: Open book icon

English: Open book icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even though I do not take part in the reading by computer, (unless for work), I have to say, if it keeps people reading, go for it. Originally I was not a fan of the devices or even the idea. I am a book man.

By that I mean an actual book. Real cover, real pages, where you actually have to turn the page, not touch a screen. I am not comfortable with that screen form of digital media. I have spent far to much of my life with a book in my hand, or in my pack, or in the car, or just somewhere nearby. It is what I do. I have come to realize however, that if that is how people want to get there reading intake, good for them, they are still reading. Hopefully something entertaining, enlightening, adventurous, tear-jerking, or just plain relaxing. The same stories told between the covers of traditional books can be found in most digital arena’s. If not, just wait, it will not be long.

For those like me, do not despair. Traditional books are not going away. I had a friend tell me ten years ago that books would be a dead medium in five years. It will never happen, because there are enough of us young and old who appreciate the qualities of a book opposed to a tablet. The giant  book store chains are going away, and that is fine with me in most cases. The book industry will just have to restructure how they do things. Hell, the music industry still sells vinyl! Once publishers figure out the new market and act accordingly, things will even out, and both sides of the e-book argument will  be satisfied.

Although for those who have everything on e-books beware. In case of a power outage, your friends with old school books may charge you to read them. It is only fair.

Thoughts?