You Influence Me, You Really Influence Me

Everything I see, everything I do, eat, touch, and hear influences my writing in some way.

Television gives me an idea of what works and what doesn’t in character reactions and motivations. Sometimes If I can figure out within the first five minutes of a show who the murderer is, maybe something went wrong in the telling. Sometimes it’s more about recognizing patterns in a particular show. The same writers, the same characters, the same circumstances—in some shows that pattern gives away the murderer to someone who’s spent several seasons analyzing each episode. It doesn’t mean it’s a mistake, necessarily. But it is something for a writer to take away to either use or avoid in her own work.

Movies, like TV, are for learning what works and doesn’t work. In this longer form, I can learn about the effective (and ineffective) use of tension and how it rises and falls to carry the story forward. I believe you can learn as much, if not more, from a bad movie as you can a good one.

Food has to come into play, too. In my series, I have a closet monster who’s a gourmet chef. I am not a gourmet chef. This means I have to pay attention when we go out for a really good meal. A special New Year’s Eve menu we had at a local restaurant two years ago made its way into book two. The scene required a very fancy menu, and I still had the menu from New Year’s. I ate that meal myself. It was phenomenal. So I reused it on a dinner-cruise scene.

Music is not so much about learning for me as it is about mood.

I don’t think there’s a quicker way to influence a person’s mood than with music. Songs tend to be short, maybe three minutes long, and yet in the space of that time I can have all my worries lifted off my shoulders or be reduced to tears. It’s a kind of magic all on its own. When I write, I only play music without lyrics, since I need my own words to go on the page. But mood is everything. When I’m writing about Zoey, I often to listen to the Final Fantasy station on iTunes radio. When I write my djinn stories, I listen to music that sounds more like it’s for belly dancing.

Art is for inspiration more than any other medium. I can stand in front of a painting of a woman in a chair for a half hour, wondering about her life, whether she was happy, if she had any pets or children or bad habits. After a day spent at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, my fingers itch. My eyes are unfocused and my thoughts are far away. All those paintings and sculptures swirl around in my head and form characters and scenes in faraway places.

For a writer, everything is influential. It’s all or nothing. If we closed ourselves off from our surroundings, we wouldn’t have anything to write about.

Rachel is the author of the urban fantasy Monster Haven series from Carina Press. She believes in magic, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks, and putting things off until stress gets them done faster at the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas.

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