1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Unexpected/Little Influences

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by evolution_rex, Dec 28, 2015.

  1. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Inkling

    I think we all have things that have influenced the way we write. We could say the big ones, like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. The classics, the ones everybody knows. But I think we all also have those little things that impacted us. Things that might not be particularly good, or particularly known. They might be terrible but certain aspects we saw in them inspired us, or maybe it was something really obscure that you would have never picked up on any other occasion. I call them unexpected influences, and I have a ton of them. This is a thread to share your own unexpected little influences in hopes others might look into it. They can be books, short stories, movies, TV shows, comics, video games, paintings, music, any form of art really.

    Here are some of mine:

    Star Wars Prequels- I know this is a mainstream thing, but if I had watched the prequels today I would never have been influenced by them, because I don't think they're particularly good. However, because a good portion of the movies deals with galactic politics, I learned that how a government worked was important to world building. I think the fact that I became politically involved at a young age also has routes in this.

    Michael Crichton's Next- A book I rid in junior high that impacted me greatly. It had some dark humor in it, some light humor, and was the first thing I ever really understood as a satire. I like the book but it's not particularly amazing, but it really great to me back then. It's narrative form, a string of independent stories interconnecting each other, influenced my style of writing a lot.

    Chronicles of Riddick- A fantasy movie that my dad loved and I loved as a kid. Along with the other two I listed, when I saw it when I was older, it wasn't as good, but it really gave me a lot of ideas. I like a rougher, tougher Star Wars-like universe. Space fantasy that was a bit more horrifying and serious. And most importantly, the Riddick series taught me as a kid that you could have a main character that wasn't completely good.

    Pac Man World 3- A random video game my grandpa gave me when I was little. Pac Man remains today one of the few video games I enjoy playing, and I played this game whenever I was at my grandparents house. I was surprised by the amount of world building there is in the game when it was just a pac man game. There are a lot of interesting levels in the game that influenced the way I imagine more lighthearted stories. I think this game is a little bit neat because it stands out against all over Pac Man games. It's a little bit less little-kiddy than the other games and feels more western in design.

    Creepypastas- I read creepypastas all the time and I think they're great. They're quick and easy to read, and really help me know what people find scary. Creepypastas really allow me to see what works and what doesn't (because not all creepypastas are good) without reading thousands of horror novels. They are goldmines for ideas as well. If you like writing horror, I recommend giving them some reads.

    I'd love to see what you guys have.
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    My influences come from odd places. One is Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Both showed me it was possible to write great literature in a genre work. That continues to be an ideal for me.

    Another is Joseph Conrad. His writing is just plain marvelous, yet it continues to elude me how he did it. Some of the devices he used really ought not to have worked at all.

    Jean Le Carre is a master of clean story telling. He just never seems to waste a word. Unrelated yet to my ear they sound like they were taught by the same master, Graham Greene's novels, both his thrillers and his more philosophical works.

    Robert Louis Stevenson. Still unsurpassed for adventure writing. Leo Tolstoy, who remains my model for how to tell a battle. Colleen McCullough--her epic re-telling of the story of Julius Caesar is a handbook on how to write a historical novel. Neville Shute, who shows how to write big stories on a small scale.

    In fantasy? Well, geez, R.L. Howard, with an honorable mention to Roy Thomas. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials is brilliant. Martian Chronicles somehow always feels as much like fantasy as it does like science fiction, and the prose is thrilling. Ursula LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea pretty much invented the school-of-wizards archetype. And, of course, T.H. White because he gave us Wart. I can't get through the modern craze of "let's re-tell fairy tale X" because all I do is compare them to The Once and Future King. Ditto all the King Arthur reboots.

    Because I'm a historian by training, I have to mention a couple of big influences: Marc Bloch and Sir Steven Runciman. Both models of clarity.
  3. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    Roger Zelazny, especially the Chronicles of Amber (the first 5), and also Lord of Light, Creatures of Light and Darkness, and A Night in the Lonesome October. Good storytelling and characters. Good lessons learned by reading how to use first person POV.

    Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series. I really like his dialogue and the banter between some of the characters. Also, he isn't afraid to attempt differently structures and storytelling methods. Gives me ideas.

    Stephen R. Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. Just epic storytelling at its best. Gave me ideas for grand scale and to create a world (in his case, The Land) with creatures and cultures that weren't and remain unlike anything else out there.

    Planet of the Apes movies from my youth and Jonny Quest series. Those influenced me as a kid, getting me interested in the 'what ifs' out there, and the first experiences (beyond reading the Lost World--as best I could at a young age) that really stretched my imagination.

    Babylon 5. Character development and a story arc that spanned years in a series, yet each episode and year could stand on its own well enough. Good for thoughts on writing a series.

    The Rockford Files. Reminded me of how an average guy could use brains and a little luck and survive, sometimes even succeeding...but not always.

    There are more of course, but those are what jumped to mind right away.
    evolution_rex likes this.
  4. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    Okay, I'm going to deviate a little here:

    Cunningham's Herbal Encyclopedia and other real-world ancient knowledge, folk tales, and spiritual accounts influenced me greatly as a teen, because they live somewhere between reality and fiction. They give information, but also inspired me to think of things in a magical way, which fueled a lot of my fantasy world and magic.

    I'm inspired by people who quickly leave an impression. A person who's lived a full life and shares odd details, a person who fully embodies a sort of superhuman trait, like my old friend, Patsy, who had a gift for being positive and would compliment everyone she met...just so naturally it boggled my mind. People who seem surreal in their own reality, one I cannot naturally grasp--it made me aware of those external factors over which I have no power. The power of someone else's magnetic personality.

    The weirdness in our own world--and the fears of the unknown: I went to a house one time where there were supposed to be demonic things happening, bleeding portraits, blood dripping from the garage ceiling, chalk symbols appearing in the basement, etc. and while I'm not sure I believe in the reality of those things, they certainly affected my creative mind and inspired me.

    I've been especially inspired by my time in the SCA. Things like field battle melees, torchlight tourneys, archery competitions, etc. Those experiences were real and before my eyes, and the energy of being within the circle of such a huge, real battle/ event was awesome and humbling. I remember my first torchlight tourney, with four burning lights illuminating a cordoned square. The dust in the air from the fighters' feet, and the clash of weapons and shields. It's something that you can't help but remember in minute detail, and those little memories stick with me because as a writer, I have a little magical bag of holding in my mind for each of them to be kept until needed.

    Along that same track, the emotional experiences I live every day. My dog died almost three years ago, and while I miss him, his death was one of those little memories I kept. I wrote every sensation of his passing into a scene where a woman lost her friend, and like me, her friend died in her arms. Without having lived that sad moment, I couldn't have done the scene justice, and i'm proud to have received such wonderful feedback, because everyone who's read the scene said it was a home run, and it was really emotional and real-feeling.

    I draw most of my inspiration from my real life and the things i've seen and felt. maybe that makes me a very limited writer, but I find my best scenes are ones I wrote in reflection of reality. To me, there is no higher praise than when someone liked something I lived and compliments me on capturing it so vividly.

    So whatever it is, poker games with friends, a place that struck me as unforgettable, or a person who was larger than life, my mind is a camera, taking videos and still frames of what I experience, and when I write, those files are my inspiration. While I've read a bunch of great books and certainly drawn some inspiration from them, the items i'm most likely to have connected with are those same smallish events that might have (for all I know) been someone else's reality, put down on paper for us all to enjoy.
  5. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I will pull out an odd little book, except I can't recall its name at all. It probably came out in the 80's? But anyhow, it claimed to be a book about an archaeological dig in England, I think, that found an ancient dwarven culture. Its presentation as being real was cool. Probably a good seed for turning out depth of cultures and peoples that I tend to work on.

    That's my only "unexpected" influence.
  6. NerdyCavegirl

    NerdyCavegirl Sage

    Oh man I know this list has the potential to be WAY too long because EVERYTHING fuels my imagination....So I'll list the first few examples that come to me and just stop mid-sentence if I run out of room. 1: The Dark Tower series-- Stephen King. I'm pretty sure I'd still write dark epic science-fantasy anyway, but King, and in turn his own influence Tolkien, are just awesome. 2: Survival stories. Island Of The Blue Dolphin, Stowaway, Julie Of The Wolves, etc. I'm a survivalist, so I enjoy reading how other people face the elements, especially ancient/indigenous cultures, and thus enjoy giving my characters the same day-to-day challenges. 3: Music. Almost every song I hear inspires a scene or character in some way, such as Desert Rose by Sting and Mishaela by Noa influencing my character Mishaela. 4: Nature. I feel a close bond to the natural world, love creating new environments, and like to show how characters and nature relate to each other and what the effects may be.
    evolution_rex likes this.
  7. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    For tv shows: Columbo staring Peter Falk showed me how to have the character and audience know the truth of a situation, but the character still needs to find a way of proving what they know. Also how Columbo would pretend to be a bit of a fool for the people he is investigating to keep them unaware of his true knowledge and skills.
    The Twilight Zone is another love of mine. The ability to have twists and turns in short stories that cover a huge range of genres.

    Books: Matthew Reilly is an author that puts a tremendous amount of detail into the environments his characters are in. He provides maps and explanations into the reasons certain aspects of the base, cavern or any other place is that way. He also uses true historical people and events to add a sense of realism to his stories.

    Movies: Everything done by Jim Henson such as Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.
    The Secret of Nim- Seeing that an animated movie can have incredible detail and mystery.
    Alien and The Terminator- Strong female characters can be the focus in amazing stories

    My kids- I seem to come up with some of my best ideas while playing with my kids.
  8. Tom

    Tom Istar

    Oh my god, I see a few people have said the Star Wars prequels--add me to the list, I guess. While I love the original trilogy, the prequels were my introduction to sci-fi/fantasy. The opulent sets and costumes really inspired me to experiment with those elements of worldbuilding. All the diverse alien species represented in the prequels made me want to focus on nonhuman races (I admit that, if I could, I would totally rip off Togrutas. What a unique and beautiful species.) The Jedi inspired an organization of mages in Southerner; just like the Jedi, they're misled peacekeepers who have become too entangled in politics and face instability from the inside.

    I hate to say it, but Anakin also greatly inspired one of my major characters--too powerful for his own good, full of rage, deep hurt, and passion that he doesn't reveal because it would scare people away. Anakin's character is oddly magnetic for me. There's a lot of emotional depth and complexity than I think most people overlook.

    Dragonlance Chronicles--Yep. That one. While the general story disappointed me, I did learn quite a bit about the workings of a conventional magic system, especially cost. It was the first time it really sunk in that magic has costs, and that those costs can sometimes be more than you are able or willing to give. I mainly took this away from Raistlin's arc, watching him sell his humanity piece by piece for greater power. He was the character who had the most impact on me, perhaps because of his similarity to Anakin Skywalker. The thirst for power, the struggle and eventual acquiesce to darkness.

    Evolution--The scientific theory of evolution has always fascinated me, even back when I was a little sprout reading about it out of a world history encyclopedia. (My interest in it alarmed my conservative, creationist parents considerably, but that's another story.) The concept of living creatures changing so radically to fit their environment seemed like magic to me, like a transformation. I've based an entire magic system on evolution--basically it's an aggressive, highly specialized form of adaptation that can turn fish into merfolk and merfolk into humans in just a few generations, and makes species very flexible and unstable.

    There are a lot of unexpected things that have influenced my writing. Dreams, music, random snatches of movies or tv shows or book passages. I can't possibly name all of them, so I'll just leave it at the ones I already listed. It's a wild world out there, and everything in it holds the power to inspire if you pay attention. :)

    Oh hey, @ Devouring Wolf, that book about dragons exists. It's called Dealing With Dragons, by Patricia C Wrede, and it was one of my favorites in middle school. You'll probably be happy to hear that it's also the first in a four-book series--The Enchanted Forest Chronicles.
    evolution_rex likes this.
  9. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    More secondary and minor influences than I care to think about. Still:

    Television: 'Babylon 5' and 'Lost.' The concept of an overall story arch, and with Lost, mostly normal people in a baffling situation. The notion that even decent people can screw up in horrible ways.

    Maps: specifically the multicolored relief maps of continents and the world that used to hang on classroom walls everywhere (and still might, for all I know.) I used to envision shifting the color borders a bit: melt the Antarctic ice cap, ocean level goes up 230 feet, dramatic changes to the continents. North and South America become long and skinny. Toss in a bit of geologic uplift (or a few volcanoes) and you get a 'continent' maybe twenty thousand miles long (if you looped over into east Asia). An inspiration (along with Robinson's 'Short Sharp Shock') for my second world.

    Books - too many to even think about.

    better stop while I'm behind
  10. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Inkling

    Here's some more of mine

    Fantasia- Whenever I think a scene, I always give it music. I'm no musician and know nothing about how to create or write music, but I have all these tunes in my head that no one will ever hear. It helps me put emphasis what kind of effect I want in a scene, scary, dramatic, funny, etc when I write. I think this started when I was very very young and I watched Fantasia. At the time, I thought it was disturbing and it made me sick. I suppose I just couldn't comprehend the surreal aspects of the film and the idea that something could be so musically based. But as I grew older I fell in love with classical music and I also fell in love with surrealism, and a part of it was because I remember how sick I felt watching it and wanted to relieve that fever dream kind of experience.

    Jodorowsky's Dune- Although I only watched the documentary recently, I've known about this film that was never made for a long time. The movie was an artist given full control over a project with few budgetary concerns, and who knows if it would have been good. Whether or not it would have been is besides the point because the backstory and the what ifs are just so amazing. I think Alexandro Jodorowksy is one of the truest modern artists out there and this movie tells me to write what's in my heart and not to be afraid of being creative and weird.

    H.R Giger- favorite artist of all time. He did gross and disturbing pieces and that's why he's so great. Whenever I think up monsters, they're usually inspired in some form by his paintings or sculptures.
  11. NerdyCavegirl

    NerdyCavegirl Sage

    Oh and quite a few games inspire me: Assassin's Creed (suck at most rated T or M games, but I love to watch my mate play), Dark Cloud, Malice, and Kingdom Hearts all greatly influence me with their storylines and scenery. AC is definitely more realistic than the other three, which is why I like it, but I equally love the outlandishness of those too. Actually some of it is pretty good nightmare fuel. The Sims is also a bit of an inspiration; I use it to design characters, see how their personalities might interact (at least in the 21st century), and mess around with more modern plotlines. I recently made a homeless prostitute with a young son, made a run-down abandoned park on their lot since they kept trying to go "home" at night and I couldn't stop them, might do more with the concept. Disney in general is also a major influence, at least the animated work.
  12. Tom

    Tom Istar

    Prince of Egypt, how could I forget that? This movie is what inspired me to pursue a career in concept art/animation. It introduced the concept of story as art to me, as up until that point I'd mostly been exposed to Disney movies, which while visually interesting, really didn't do much with their sets. PoE's setting was a character in and of itself, with its scale and depth and sweeping landscapes. From it I took away the idea of building a whole world around a story--and my love of worldbuilding was born.
    Ophiucha, evolution_rex and Ireth like this.
  13. imagine123

    imagine123 Dreamer

    Like most of y'all, I've been influenced by tons of books. I think the Drizzt trilogy ranks up there, along with Jurassic Park, the Liveship trilogy, and a few others.

    Alien and Aliens, as my favorite movies, are also big influences.

    One thing that I'm extremely grateful to have experienced is living in a remote forested region for multiple months at a time. I've learned how to build a fire and shelters, how long it takes to cook food, what it feels like to live out in the wild, and how ingenious locals can be about using their resources.

    In fact (thinking as I'm writing here)...my work has really heavily influenced my story; I'm in wildlife conservation, so I've seen the effects of habitat degradation on natural ecosystems firsthand, and the idea of a world losing its resources, its people being pushed to the brink, an exhausted world, if you will, is a big theme for me.
    evolution_rex likes this.
  14. Velka

    Velka Sage

    When I was a child I read The El Dorado Adventure by Lloyd Alexander. I still have that copy of the book. Suddenly there was a strong, smart, brave, and adventurous MC who was a girl! I had always wanted to be Sherlock Holmes or Indiana Jones or Luke Skywalker when I grew up and it always seemed very unfair that the boys got to have all the adventures. Just to add to the /swoon factor it was told through the POV of her guardian Brinnie, which gave it a very Sherlock Holmes narrative flair. It was this book that showed me that anything was possible in the realm of story and I furiously wrote a ton of adventure stories starring me as the strong, smart, brave, and adventurous MC.

    I'm tempted to read it again, but I'm afraid that the rosy glow of nostalgia will be tarnished by seeing it again through my adult eyes.

    Music is another big influence. When I hear a song I love I make a little movie of it in my head. This has lead to some great stories/scenes/conversations.

    Science articles and discoveries also inspire me. I recently read one on the discovery of a new planet and this fact jumped out at me:

    How cool would that be? A planet that has one habitable strip while half of it is essentially burning and the other half is in perpetual frigid darkness? SO MANY IDEAS!

    The Godfather I also really inspired me. It is, in essence, a perfectly crafted story. Scene construction and sequencing are breathtaking and the faustian theme is so wonderfully done. I could watch the baptism scene on repeat, it is pure genius. It was what gave me the courage to finally start writing my latest story where the hero doesn't become the hero, but the thing she loathed the most in the end.
    evolution_rex likes this.
  15. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Inkling

    If we're talking about music, I'd like to mention the soundtracks to the films Signs, Mission to Mars, Interstellar, Contagion, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Conan The Barbarian, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Beyond The Black Rainbow, Alien, Predator, Prometheus, Blade Runner, ET, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

    I listen to all kinds of music, but the only real band that could consistently help me brainstorm and boost my imagination would be Pink Floyd.
  16. ushKee

    ushKee Scribe

    Harry Potter- I consider this the gold standard of fantasy writing. The sheer amount of detail put to make the magical world appear real is amazing, the complexity of the plot is amazing, and the iconic characters and their relationships are great

    Lord of The Rings- pretty obvious, but Lord Of The Rings had a great influence because it made essentially the perfect medieval fantasy world. The depths that Tolkien went to make orcs and elves seem real, making huge maps and inventing language, is just inspiring.

    Star Wars prequels and sequels- I love how creative they are with all the interesting creatures and droids. It’s also really cool how each planet has a separate aesthetic “feel”. The concept of the Force is beautiful, and the politics aspect has a big influence on me whenever I try to write politics in fantasy

    Miyazaki animation movies-

    Earthsea by Goro Miyazaki- I really love this film from a fantasy perspective, even though it's not that good. There's something about the setting that just has a great aesthetic feel to it, one I want to try to emulate in my book(s).

    Howl's Moving Castle- this is my favorite example of a group of mismatched characters who have developed into a functioning family. I really love that theme.

    Ponyo- I can never again write about the ocean in a fantasy perspective without thinking of this. A really cute and beautiful movie

    Other things influenced me too, such as BBC's Merlin, Artemis Fowl, Lilo and Stitch, tons of books I can't remember off the top of my head. Almost everything is from when I was much younger..
  17. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

    Junji Ito. A horror manga author who writes... really strange stories. Spirals that kill. Sea creatures with mechanical legs. Kids turning into ice cream. A town with anemia (the actual town itself, not just the townspeople). Nothing is too strange to not work with Ito, and aside from inspiring me directly as a horror writer, I also find it inspiring to see how well just about anything can work if the idea is executed well.

    Zombie films. There are only so many movies in a single genre you can watch before it starts to affect you in little ways, and apparently 'so many' is a number under 278. Because that is how many zombie films I have seen. I don't actually write zombie fiction, in particular, but a tendency towards black comedy, post-apocalyptic fiction, and necromancers is definitely the result of my many wasted hours watching this trash.

    Romance novels. When I am sitting on transit, cooking dinner, doing anything where I'm only half-engaged with my reading... well, I read trashy romance novels. I love a good lonely housewife who gets swept up in a sordid affair, and most of my novels are about middle-aged women getting swept up in an adventure. And I write a lot of romantic subplots, although enough fantasy has that anyway that I'd probably do so regardless.

    And some miscellaneous media that particularly inspire me: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou by Hitoshi Ashinano, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Shadow of the Colossus, Dinotopia by James Gurney, Pan's Labyrinth, most of China Miéville's stories, most of Nnedi Okorafor's stories, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Twin Peaks, most of the surviving literature of medieval Scandinavia, Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold, the Mother/Earthbound series, Otoyomegatari by Kaoru Mori, most of Jorge Luis Borges' stories, Rococo art, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, the Vlad Taltos series by Steven Brust, the Gormenghast books by Mervyn Peake, Dishonored, the Alien films, classical/antiquity frescoes, most of Ursula K. LeGuin's stories, cookbooks, Steven Universe, Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner, and the specific parts of the Middle Earth/Tolkien fandom that love hobbits, orcs, and dwarves and expand on the lore and language that Tolkien occasionally neglected in favour of elves and Men.
  18. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    I'm kind of in the opposite position where I'm not really surprised by anything that influences me anymore. I welcome all of my influences and embrace how they fire my imagination.

    But one thing that did surprise me, when I realized it, was actually how little Tolkien's stories influence my stories, given how much I love them. I am influenced by Tolkien himself and his approach to worldbuilding and fantasy writing in general, but not really by his actual stories. I find that the more I explore my own storytelling instincts the farther away I get from things like Tolkien and Lewis who were my earliest fantasy experiences and loves. It's actually quite fascinating to me.
  19. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    I've probably been influenced by movies far more than books.
    evolution_rex likes this.
  20. evolution_rex

    evolution_rex Inkling

    Books usually tell me how to write, movies usually tell me what to write.

Share This Page