Creativity is an interesting thing. The stories I write are truly my own stories that I concocted in my imagination. I brought distinct characters to life, created worlds, and found adventure. But I can clearly track different books and authors that have lent me their voices and ideas. I could step into those words for a moment and experience the story before stepping back out and taking what I’ve learned with me.
The same thing happens to me when I write music. I can almost always see the influences of different composers in my own compositions. I can tell what kind of music I was listening to while writing a new piece because the inspiration is easy to track, and the composer invited me to experience his or her style of music for a moment in time before sending me off to write my own works.
There are a few books and authors that have greatly impacted my own writing. Today I want to look at those stories and try to pick out what I latched onto and why, and how that played out in my writing. Between plot, characters, world building, and style, these stories helped to shape me as a writer. So let’s get into it!
1. Brian Jacques and the Redwall series
I’ve mentioned before on this blog that Mossflower by Brian Jacques was the book for me. It was the book that made me fall in love with reading. But also, it was the book that made me fall in love with writing.
I’ll admit that throughout the 22 book series, you start to see a pattern in the plot. There are always new twists and turns, as well as interesting and sympathetic characters in each and every book, but for the most part, the books have certain elements that make them similar to each other.
One of these elements is that of the “Quest”. Nearly all of the Redwall books have a quest as their main plot. Whether its to rescue the kidnapped children of the Abbey, as in Mattimeo, or to discover the secrets of their predecessors, as in Loamhedge, there always seems to be a quest going on, a perilous journey faced bravely and nobly, and a homecoming.
It’s no wonder I so love quest plots. Between the Redwall series, plus other books like The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander which also follows a quest, I’ve read a lot of them. Not all of my own books have this element, but many do, and they’re a joy to write!
2. The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarilion by J. R. R. Tolkien
Tolkien was a master world builder. I’ve listened to a lot of lectures about his life that explain really well why his books are the way they are. He was a scholar deeply fascinated by Norse culture, the history of England, mythology, and the wonders of language.
All of these things are clearly visible in Tolkien’s stories. Middle Earth has such an astounding beauty to it, so rich and infused with atmosphere that few fictional universes can hold a candle to it. It was this sense of the fantastic and the epic that drew me into his stories, and those were the things I drew from it. Now, sometimes it’s genuinely hard to write fantasy that doesn’t have a Tolkien-y feel to it because of how influential this man was towards the genre. (It’s been done really well, though. A Wizard of Earthsea vy Ursula K. LeGuin has an incredibly unique feel to it)
I fell in love with Middle Earth and I wanted some of those same elements to exist in my own fantasy world. I wanted that deep sense of nostalgia sprinkled throughout, the feeling that the world is ancient and vibrant and real. And Tolkien has been a fantastic teacher.
3. Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan
I find Percy Jackson a really good story and genuinely humorous. Riordan has a really fun, down-to-earth style that I hadn’t seen in classic literature I was so immersed in at the time. I immediately tried to emulate his voice because of how much I liked it, and I ended up being more of an annoying photocopy, but it still taught me how to find my own voice as a writer! I also really, really love Percy Jackson’s premise. The dude’s just trying to live his life and suddenly he learns that he’s part god? And that there are actual monsters after him? And that he gets a sword that can turn into a pen? There are just a lot of really neat elements in Percy Jackson, and the characters are so loveable. I didn’t like the Heroes of Olympusseries as much as I liked Percy Jackson, and I haven’t read beyond those two series, but Percy still holds a place in my heart.
4. G. K. Chesterton
Chesterton’s stories are absolutely chaotic. The Man Who was Thursday felt like a fever dream. The Ball and the Crosswas fundamentally hysterical to me while still being extremely thoughtful and intellectual. The Father Brown books are the same way. He manages to balance genuinely outlandish elements with rich meaning, and it’s amazing. There are so many witty lines that made me chuckle. And his descriptions are gorgeous.
These four authors and their works are my greatest influences and teachers, and I’m so thankful for discovering them all!
Who are some authors that have inspired you?