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Creative Writing: Influence Maps

I’ve just published a post over on The Great Novelling Adventure about creating influence maps for your creative writing. I thought I’d take the maps I made for myself and expound on them here, in case anyone is curious.

No story (or writer) is created in a vacuum. Everyone has threads connecting their creation to the wider world. Having other forces influence you doesn’t make you unoriginal–in fact, I think the way we interpret the things that influence us is what makes us unique.

influence map

PhotographyBeing a photographer has changed the way I look at the world. I notice things like light, angles, and tiny details that others often overlook. (Anyone who’s had to go walking with me and a camera can probably testify to this.) As I write, I often pull on this attention to visual detail to make my writing more specific and vivid.

Liberty Kids. Ah, Liberty Kids, a laughably inaccurate cartoon of my childhood. Still, it instilled in me a love for history as a living thing full of stories. It probably didn’t hurt that I was living a mile from Mt. Vernon at the time the show aired, so I had colonial history at my fingertips.

The United Kingdom. Both in its literature and in my experience living here, the UK has undeniably made a mark in my writing. It’s given me so many varied experiences, all contained on this little island.

The Navy. I am a military brat through and through, and no matter what I’m writing there always seems to be an element of displacement, duty, and sea-love.

The Lord of the Rings. My dad read this book to me and my siblings three separate times during our childhood. I don’t think I couldn’t be influenced by it if I tried! Much of my love for fantasy comes from the home it created for me when I didn’t have a physical place that would be home for very long.

Bible. My faith and the environment I grew up in has an enormous impact on my writing, even if my books aren’t what some might call “Christian”. I don’t think I could separate my writing from my beliefs if I tried.

Rheumatoid Arthritis. This is an actual picture of an x-ray of my middle finger. A lot of my writing centers around brokenness and healing, illness and recovery. Blessings could be retitled Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Fantasy Novel. Whether I like it or not, RA is an indisputable part of my identity, and I foresee wrestling with it in my writing for a long time to come.

Afghanistan. Over the last thirteen years, I’ve just scratched the bare surface of the history, culture, horror, and beauty of Afghanistan. My short trip there in 2011 changed the way I think about people different from me, and opened my eyes to new worlds. Even if my setting is fantasy Venice, I find bits of Afghanistan creeping into my stories.

The Education Corner: Sonlight, Berry College, and Bath Spa University. I was homeschooled through most of my elementary, middle school and high school years, primarily using Sonlight for my reading courses. Those books still stick with me, and they went a long way toward instilling in me a love to read and write. At Berry, I upped it a notch by diving into difficult literature and creative writing courses far out of my comfort zone (I cannot overemphasize how useful it was to study poetry and rhetoric). At Bath Spa, my writing style wasn’t so much influenced as it was enhanced. My writing voice was cultivated and strengthened, and though I went in not even sure I had a voice I’ve come out with one that is uniquely my own.

Disney/Fairytales. I can’t be hipster enough to deny growing up on quite a lot of Disney. Even today, Disney influences my writing, sometimes drawing me to imitation and sometimes pushing me in the opposite direction. (I went back and forth about including Frozen on the map below, because so much of Illuminate‘s climax was about not doing what Frozen did. But that’s another post for another day.)

My (weird) family. Should I ever run out of ideas for characters, I never have to look farther than my family. Case in point: This is our Christmas picture from last year where we did a battle charge in Venetian masks on an abandoned air field.

The Welsh Fairy Book. I picked this book up when I was 14 or 15 in a Chesapeake library, and the stories quickly made me fall deeply in love with Wales. It’s hard to explain how much I love this book, or how much it’s influenced my love for myth and fairytale from my first completed manuscript to today.

Loreena McKennitt’s Book of Secrets. This is sort of a stand in for music in general, but I still vividly remember being 12 and hearing The Highwayman for the first time. Cue my obsession with ballads and Celtic/world music throughout my teen years. This is still the sort of music I gravitate toward while I’m writing (though I also have a big soft spot for indie).

Mrs. Mike. The first book to really hammer it into my head that a place can be a character of its own. This book changed the way I thought about environments in fiction, and my writing hasn’t been the same since.

Jane Austen. Does this need an explanation? Anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for the wit, humor, and social commentary Jane Austen weaves into her books. I love propriety and manners and balls. I love Jane Austen’s light touch on the romances that make her famous. I love the way she can crush your soul in a look (here’s to you, Captain Wentworth). I’m going to stop now before I dissolve into a puddle of fangirling.

influence map illuminate

Whew. I doubt if after all that above you really want me to blabber about everything on this one. So, I leave it to your imaginations!

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