Just as writers get ideas from all around us, we also are influenced by everything we come into contact with. I dedicated a portion of my own personal blog entries to this phenomenon, which I affectionately call the Input/Output modes. Anything we take in inevitably affects what comes out.

As a writer, I talk a lot about other writers and books that influence me, but sometimes I forget how much the other categories of art inspire me, as well.

Music is a powerful one. When I listen to instrumental music, new worlds unfold inside my mind, and I envision scenes to fit with that music. When I was a kid, I used to lie in bed listening to my favorite movie soundtracks and make up new stories to go with them. Hell, I still do that sometimes. For some novels, I’ll create a Pandora station based around certain songs or bands for a certain mood. For others, I will pick one specific instrumental movie soundtrack and listen to it over and over, which shapes my story quite a bit, inspiring scenes I wouldn’t have otherwise fathomed.

Visual arts – paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photographs – also trigger stories in me. I have always struggled with setting and description. I have a vague idea of what a person or place looks like, but the details are usually missing in my writing. Visual representations help me really consider the details.  Sometimes a picture will really speak to me and I’ll be driven to write a story that fits the scene. I’ll want to tell the story of how that domed city on the cliff came to be, or why the sky has inexplicable green miasma in it, or where that dragon got all of those books. Then characters will start to wander around inside the images to answer all of these questions for me.

The arts aren’t the only other medium that influence my writing, however.

The beverages I drink while writing tend to influence my writing, as well. In the evenings, I drink red wine. The slight intoxication helps loosens up my mind, which makes difficult passages easier to write. In the afternoons, I drink coffee. When the caffeine hits, my fingers fly unthinkingly across the keyboard, and my thoughts skip my conscious mind altogether – they flow directly through my fingers and onto the page.  The rate at which I write seems to flow with the same frequency as my chosen poison.

Television and film, especially from other cultures, influence me as well. Japanese animation, British television shows, and other foreign films all have their own unique character archetypes and mythologies, different from what we are used to as a culture. It helps me think outside of what I consider stock characters or morals, and push the boundaries as far as expected plot twists. Although I’m sure on a deeper, subconscious level, I don’t have to look any further than our own movies and television to see where some of my influences come from. I have been soaking it all up for more than three decades, after all.

Input mode is just as crucial as Output mode for writers. If nothing goes in, nothing comes out. Right now, for me, nothing is coming out, which tells me I need to go into Input mode for awhile to collect and digest some material for Output mode. My last Output mode resulted in two novels. I’m looking forward to kicking back and enjoying Input mode for awhile.

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.

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