Aspirations, Influences, and Imitations

 

When I was younger I was a big fan of Terry Pratchett, I still am, I just was when I was younger too. When I was around 13 to 15 Terry Pratchett was the only author I wanted to read and I made it through every book he had released at that point. To this day Discworld books will forever be some of my favourites and I still point to Mr Pratchett as my main inspiration for becoming a writer. When he sadly passed away in 2015 it really hit home to me just how important he had been in my life, how he had helped me define my future aspirations; goals that I would have for over 10 years, and never forsee myself losing. Terry convinced me that it was possible to create these incredibly complex and fully functioning worlds. Places that behaved like a Fantasy made real. He convinced be you could make a story funny, adventurous, and carry a real moral message or social statement too.

So, in between reading Pratchett I did the impossible… I set about writing my own book. I still vaguely remember the premise of the book. The Hero of the story was fated to save the world through some sort of self sacrifice in some sort of big battle, but somehow he managed to find himself flung forward in time and ending up in the world where he was meant to have died and which had been saved on the back of this. What can I say? I loved, and still do love, the ideas of time travel and the ideas of ‘fate’ and how we can mess with it. In this Never-Titled Narrative, there was also side story consisted of the Pantheon of this world (Including, but not limited to, Father Time, Mistress Fate, and Death), trying to work out what had gone wrong, what had screwed up the timeline, and why he hadn’t ‘Died’ when he should have. He also had a pet pig, though the relevance of that is long since lost on me. (Perhaps it was a Black Cauldron reference?)

Looking back on it, I had a couple of OK ideas, especially for that age, and I could certainly see myself using a similar themes in future stories. I still write about Fate, for instance, and I love deconstructing its implications in stories. In hindsight however, and I even remember realising this at the time, my writing style was unmistakably Pratchett-esque. I mean, the personification of ‘Gods’ and ‘Death’ – especially Death– reeks of Discworld, and I remember writing with the aim of being funny, and with the aim of delivering the same comedic beats as Pratchett’s work. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t saying my writing in anyway paralleled the sheer brilliance of Sir Terrys work, but I found myself unable to write in any style other than this heavily-Pratchett-influenced style. I even took to writing forums about it, asking if anyone else had this and whether I’d ever shake it.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see that this was simply because of the world I’d immersed myself in. If I spent a few years only reading Terry Pratchett, I wasn’t expanding my influences, and my mind was learning that ‘this is how you write’, because it saw not contrary examples.

As I got older, I stopped writing in this style, as I got older still I stopped writing completely. Eventually when I returned to writing properly, despite dabbling over the years, I found my own voice; the voice you’re reading now in my blogs. That said, I’ve always found myself being highly emphatic to what I’m reading/watching/playing at the time. I’ve got a Noir short story I wrote coming off the back of watching/being obsessed with Brick. My friend even adapted/condensed it and turned it into a Student Film… I’ve link it below.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/4919271″>Imaginoir</a&gt; from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user1655258″>John Wood</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

More recent examples are of me writing grittier, darker fantasy due to a recent obsession with Mark Lawrence, or trying to write intricate and overly complex plots from watching Kirsty play through the absolutely amazing, but highly convoluted Kingdom Hearts series for the first time… It seems that if I’m into something, whatever it is, it has a powerful impact on my writing. I may not copy the style of writers as much anymore, but I’m certainly influenced by the themes of things I’m writing about. Heck, my work in progress at the moment (wow, I haven’t mentioned that in a long, long time) has influences from everything including my original love of Terry Pratchett, my more recent love of Mark Lawrence, an old love of Final Fantasy, and even a big dollop of Bioshock: Infinite thrown in (amazing game, that).

A writer will, I think, always be influenced by the things that inspire them, be it other works or other people. I think avoiding it is hard, just as I think being ‘objective’ in a Review is hard. We are always products of our influences and we can no more avoid that then we an avoid the impact of our life experiences on our mindsets. I raise the issue though, because sometimes it can feel more a hindrance than anything.

I find myself unable to work on my WiP because I’m too busy being inspired by Sci-Fi, which it isn’t. I find myself wanting to write the colourful fantasy story I’ve previously planned, but, whilst my WiP may be fantasy, it certainly isn’t ‘colourful’ as I originally favored a ‘grittier‘ tone. Most of all, it makes me question my own style/voice if I’m so easily influenced. How do I know I am writing my own work if I am currently riding a wave of the recent author that’s hooked me…. And I suppose I don’t. At the end of the day, even the best authors switch it up from time to time, they can write pieces that are very much products of their time. It’s easier to see this in Cinema, perhaps, where stylistic changes are easily more apparent due to the visuals used. Times change, people change, Messages change, styles change.

At the moment, I can only write what I want to write as I currently am and influenced by what I’m influenced by. I can’t envision what my writing will be like in future, whether it will feel consistent, or whether it’ll be ever changing. For all I know, the piece I’m (trying) to work on now will be tonally dissimilar from the rest of my future Bibliography… or it might be consistently inconsistent, I may never settle down. If that’s me, then so be it, but I do think I’m finding my voice now, I do think my writing style has settled… I’ve grown up from being a poor ‘imitation’ and started settling into merely being ‘influenced’, for better or worse, by my other passions.

Over to you. If you’re a writer (or any kind of Artist really!), do ever find yourself drawing too heavily on your inspirations? Ever find yourself wanting to jump to different styles because of a recent passion? Let me know in the comments below!

The Powers of (Mis)communication

Have you ever realised how much upset and annoyance can stem from a simple lack of communication?

A few weeks ago I talked about stress and anxiety in: 3 Steps to Help Combat your Anxieties!. There I mentioned that arguing with Kirsty was one of the things that brought me stress, but that things aren’t as simply as just ‘deciding to stop arguing’, instead you have to find a way to combat that, to avoid having reason to argue in the first place.

Last week, I talked about Seeking Sanctuary after my housemate moving out, and, whilst trying (and failing, a little? You be the judge!) to avoid going into rant-mode, I also wanted to talk about one of the things that upset the balance most.

Both these two points stem from the same source; both of them are a lack of communication.

Kirsty often gets annoyed with me when I don’t do something she expects of me, sometimes this is me not doing as I said I would, sometimes it’s me not doing something I didn’t even know was expected of me; all of it is a problem with communication. Maybe I didn’t listen when Kirsty was explaining something, and mid-argument I realise she’s right, maybe I didn’t communicate when, or how, I was going to do something and had left Kirsty with a different expectation than myself. If, in the first instance, we’d communicated better, if we’d explained and listened, explained and listened, than we could avoid arguments around those issues.

To prove this point, there have been times we’ve had arguments that, when you get down to the bare bones of it, stem from me meaning one thing and Kirsty meaning something completely different. That leads to an argument you can’t conclude, neither of you are listening, neither of you realise the argument is futile and, by its very nature, has no end. Sometimes, though more rarely, we’ll actually be in agreement, but arguing because we’re using different language; our shared goal lost in translation. When we realise that’s our cause, simple miscommunication, we settle back down, but how long have we wasted arguing? How tense have we left an otherwise pleasant and peaceful evening?

Similarly, many of the negativity from having a housemate stemmed from a lack of communication. Whilst waiting for him to move out, it never seemed there was any progress, it lead to feeling like no effort was being made (though I’m sure it was, just behind the scenes), we had no word when he was going to be in, or out, or when his girlfriend was going to be round as well; the closest we got was being asked if it was ok, whilst she’s there behind him, how can you say no? The thing was, we never wanted to say No, we liked them both and who would deny a young couple to share each other’s company? We just wanted a heads-up, a show of respect. Then came the move out, they had the keys, they had the place… and two weeks later there was no eagerness to move, their attentions more fixed on decorating and sorting than packing and leaving. Again, whilst we so eagerly craved our own space, we would have nothing against them delaying a week, two weeks, even three… but there was no communication. We weren’t kept up to date with their plans, therefore we became annoyed and irritated when they happened around us.

We’ve spoken since on the topic, I addressed my housemate and asked a question to the effect of “Why don’t you keep me informed of things?” and his response was because he felt awkward, and because I never asked. Well, I never asked because I felt awkward… Miscommunication, lack of communication, how much easier would the past five months have been if we had just had a simple conversation? If we’d explained and listened? One of us could have extended the olive branch; one of us could have saved the mutual awkwardness.

My problem is I hate confrontation; I’m passive aggressive, I’m petty. I’d rather say “I’m fine” than explain how someone has annoyed me. Half of it is through fear of upsetting someone else, half of it is through an expectation that someone should know they’ve upset me… but that’s not how the world works. Sometimes people are utterly clueless, regardless of the (seemingly) huge hints you leave in their wake. It’s just not a productive way of conducting life.

The world needs more people that communicate, more people that actually explain what’s wrong, and more people that listen to another’s points before reacted. Explaining, listening. Explaining, listening. When we shout over everyone, when we only hear the points we make ourselves, everyone is deaf.

Kirsty and I have took that on board. We’ve started to listen to each other in full, to try and provide comfort to each other when we open up as we realise it’s sometimes difficult to do so. More importantly, we’ve begun to listen to things. When Kirsty used to say “I wish you’d washed up today”, I used to hear “Why don’t you do anything at all in the house?”, when really she meant “I wish you’d washed up today”. We’re communicating now; we’re explaining, we’re listening.

Do you agree? How important do you feel communication is? And do you have any tips to ensure a healthy dialogue? Let me know in the comments below!

Making Connections: A Thursday Thought

For a reason I can’t explain I’ve been thinking a lot about connections.

It’s strange to think just how many connections we make in everyday life, be them professional or personal, big or small. The word itself has connotations of business, the old adage of “It’s who you know, not what you know”, and from there there’s a pressure around the need to network; the need to find people who can provide a helpful step up the proverbial ladder, a proverbial foot in the proverbial door.

In fact, connections can be something completely different; it doesn’t have to all be red tape and white collars. My blog was born over 5 years ago, a mere journal for me to jot down some thoughts at the time, but it was only ever something I looked at once a year, if that, and never really took seriously. Fast forward to last year, one of my best friend’s, Andy, convinced me to join a creative writing course, where we were introduced (and then ‘connected’) with Shelley. She convinced me it was worthwhile taking my blog seriously and really putting myself out there. From that connection, I’ve found many different people from all around the world; I’ve joined writing prompts, I’ve joined challenges, and I’ve joined Facebook groups. Connections leading to connections.

It can be easy to think a connection is something more tangible, it’s someone you can point to, someone who’s number you have, someone who ‘knows a guy’; really a connection can be something as small as a shared smile. By writing, by creating art, by simply giving form to our internal thought processes, we create potential connections that can span further and longer than mortal life. We are still connected now by works of art, by literature, by film or by photograph. We are connected to people we will never meet, or who’s names we’ll never know. To share our art is to create a connection en mass. To me, that’s beautiful. To me, that’s worthwhile.

Connections give us a power. They can give us support, they can give us guidance, and through them we can share our passion and our philosophy. We were born a social species, our evolution was encouraged by our communication, and through it we continue to better ourselves. By sharing our thoughts we are able to better each other; simply by increasing understanding and by portraying different perspectives. We live in a time now when our communication has transcended physical movement and speak; we exist in a world where we can learn from people across the globe. Right now there has been no better time to forge ‘connections’.

When I sat down to write this Thursday Thought, I wasn’t expecting to write so passionately, but now, writing this final paragraph, I feel genuinely moved. A connection is something more than a mere contact in a faceless industry, it is an ability to create understanding between us. When I write my blog posts, I first and foremost write them for me, but within them I try to include a positive angle; I try to promote my belief that we can all be good, that we can all be inspirational, and that we can all benefit from sharing. Nothing warms my heart more dearly than when I see us helping each other. Regardless of how we do it, be it charity work, random acts of kindness, or something as ‘trivial’ as writing a blog, we put aside differences and judgements to make the world a better place. If that isn’t making connections, I don’t know what is.

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Completely off topic: If you’re a blogger in the UK, or even further afield but interested in traveling, why not come to the Bloggers Bash? Details can be found here: BLOGGERS BASH TICKETS ON SALE NOW!!!

At The End: A Monday Motivations

I cowered, hunched against the cold, metal corridors of the ships interior; my naked flesh shivering and frost-bitten by the lifeless surroundings.

From the screens I saw stars, entities I’d only witnessed from the confines of Earth, slip by us without a care and over the intercom I heard the laughter, His laughter, cruel and sharp like a scalpel edge.

How or why He’d brought me here, I did not know, and all He’d say between His awful, insane laughter was “I am you. I am your Future. We are at the End”.

*****

Finally! I’m back doing another prompt for Esther Newton’s Monday Motivations. I’ve been taking a bit of an unintentional break from prompts, but hopefully I’ll be back on it this week.

The themes for this week were: Laughter, Cold, The Future.

A big thank you for Esther for running these Monday Motivations and hopefully this is a sign that I’m going to be doing my other prompts too this week. If you want to see my previous entries, there is either Creation, The Musician or Gold & Misery!

The Juice Thief: Writespiration #5

 

writespiration-2017

The odds were stacked against him.

He knew the patterns, the signs, and, when it was time, he spread his wings and fell; dive-bombing downward.

Moments later, the stall owner returned to find his jug was no longer full of his famous grape juice, but full of a wobbly, hiccuping pigeon instead.

*****

Seems today is the day for humorous stories? I started this one yesterday, had the idea, but not the execution. Still, I’m happy with it and it made me smile imaging it as I wrote. Another wonderful challenge posed by Sacha, in which we had to write a 52 word piece using only the prompt: Time, Stack, Juice, Pigeon.

The Trooper: A 3LT

tltweek53

He looked at himself in the mirror beside the easel and sighed; his visor steaming up in front of his eyes.

Maybe he wasn’t cut out to be a painter? Maybe there was a reason he’d been designed as a Stormtrooper™ and that was all he was meant to be?

“Fuck it!” he shouted, splattering paint against the blank canvas, “I won’t have my decisions made for me!”

*****

I may have just finished listening to John Scalzi’s Redshirts (Narrated by Wil Wheaton) so that may have been having an impact on how I saw this picture… Once again, a big thanks to Sonya and to her prompt. I always enjoy these but I seem to have lost the rhythm recently and keep missing the prompts… Glad to catch this one though!

In 5 Years Time: A Thursday Thought

Where will you be in 5 Years time? Can you visualise it? These are the questions being asked today.

I’m doing something a bit different this Thursday, by answering the questions posed by Shelley’s Blog in her post January in Review!

Q1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What small steps can you take between now and December 31st to achieve it?

In 5 years I see myself as a writer/photographer. I’m out of the daily 9 – 5 grind, I’m out of the sterile, stressful, impersonal office, and I’m in a studio of my own. Level Up Photography is bringing in frequent customers, Dark Background is publishing my work and the works of others, and in the down time I’m writing my novels or working on the Clouds.

The small steps to get there are the usual: Do more! Write more! Greg and I over at Level Up have been meeting this week, we’re getting the paperwork sorted, the website sorted and we have a client meeting in a few weeks. Things are running smooth there. As for my writing, I just need to write more, as I always need to, but thankfully I’ll finally be getting my study set up this month so that should create a dramatic increase in productivity.

Q2. What does a day in the life of your dreams look like? Write your perfect day from the minute you wake up to when you go to bed. Where are you, who are you with, what would you do?

I wake up next to Kirsty. We snuggle for a bit before getting up.

We go downstairs and feed Toby (our Cat) and, if Kirsty has it her way, the dog (She’s Pug-Obsessed).

We cook breakfast and call down the kids (I’m assuming this is the 5 years’ time, scenario)

I leave for the studio, and drop the kids to school along the way.

I work on my latest novel, or read the latest manuscript, or edit the latest clients photographs.

When all my appointments are done I drive back home.

I spend some time with Kirsty before we have to pick the kids back up.

Then in the evening we all eat together, we watch TV, read, or play boardgames.

The kids go to bed, Kirsty and I snuggle on the couch, Toby tries to squeeze in between us as always.

We go to bed together, I read for a bit, then we fall asleep to begin the day anew.

Q3. If money was not an issue what career would you have or what lifestyle would you adopt?

Studio! Studio! Studio!

Writing, Photography, Publishing.  They’re my main aims; they’re how I want to make my livelihood.

That said, “if money was not an issue” I’ve always said I’d love to run my own small games company. It’s a daydream of mine that, when I win the lottery, I’ll hire a bunch of students and create video games… Put my writing into that form as well as books and blogs!

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So, there we have it. That’s where I will be in 5 years… Give or take. As always, thanks to Shelley for those reflective questions, was great fun to fill out! Why not give it a go? Feel free to ping back here so I can see yours too!