Do you ever hop on a treadmill or drive your car and realize you have a lot of time to think? That happened to me over the weekend, and I was thinking about National Novel Writing Month and how different aspects of my life influence my storytelling. I’m sure the same is true for many of you fellow writers out there, but today I thought I’d share the Top 10 Factors That Influence My Storytelling.
No matter where I go, live, work, play, or visit, the people I know, love, or meet for the first time influence my stories. As writers, we take qualities from people we know and love, as well as interesting tidbits from folks we meet along the way. People who share their stories are the best—for it offers a glimpse into someone else’s life.
As you can probably surmise if you’ve read two of my novels, one set in Annapolis, Maryland, and the other set in Oxford, Maryland on the Eastern Shore, I like to write about places. Being able to work on describing that place so well that your readers can “see, hear, smell, taste, and touch aspects of it,” evoking all of your readers’ senses, is imperative to good writing about places. This is one of my favorite things to do. I welcome the challenge of putting someone somewhere and having readers live vicariously through the characters in their setting.
As most people have experienced some type of heartbreak (or many types of heartbreak), I am no different, and I use those emotional experiences to my advantage when writing. Sometimes writing requires you to go to those dark places when things weren’t so pleasant or grief was painful. Being able to tap into those times when life wasn’t so much fun helps inform my writing and make it realistic. But I—and other writers alike—have to be willing to remember how it felt to be heartbroken.
Whether we have actually experienced loss of any kind or can just imagine loss, writing about it means we have to dig deep and feel it. And it doesn’t just have to be death. I’ve experienced loss in my life that wasn’t my choosing—from friendships to breakups—and being able to recall and craft those types of instances helps mold characters and influence storytelling.
There is no doubt that I tap into relationships that matter to me, have influenced me, or have touched me in some way. They always say people come in and out of your life for a reason; sometimes we know why and other times we are left scratching our heads wondering why that person was in our life in the first place. Nevertheless, using relationships as touchstones in our own writing will help bring it to life. I like to use aspects of my real, nonfiction relationships in all the stories I write.
6] OTHER BOOKS I’VE READ
Other books can be tremendously influential. We glean ideas from other writers, ideas about style and cadence or our storytelling, and ideas and techniques from those who do what we do. Reading all types of works helps us determine how we want to set up our stories. Many books have influenced my style of storytelling, from Rosamunde Pilcher to Charles Dickens to JoJo Moyes.
7] WHERE I WRITE
I’ve blogged about and done a PODCAST about this so many times that you are probably sick of hearing me or seeing me write about this subject. I absolutely must be inspired by the space in which I write. If I am not “feeling” my surroundings, I will not be motivated to write anything. And the worst thing that can happen is to be uninspired, sit there, and not write a thing.
8] PAST EXPERIENCES
Every past experience influences my writing. I’ve made some stupid choices in my life; likewise, I’ve also made some really good decisions as well. Being able to give your characters realistic experiences helps them seem real, so draw from your own life, experiences, and mistakes. This is a great way to write realistic characters. As no one is perfect, neither should your characters be.
9] MY IMAGINATION
When I wrote Baseball Girl, a friend of mine called me afterwards and asked me which player I dated on the Orioles. I laughed. I explained that I didn’t date any player on the team. She said, “Come on!” “No!” I told her. “I just have a really good imagination.” I had worked in baseball for a long time, and my eyes and ears had seen and heard a lot. So, I tapped into my imagination. That’s when you know you’ve got something good—when your imagination is working overtime. That’s when you’re in your groove.
Finally, what would any of my books be without LOVE? I write about love, in all its forms, from family to friendships to deep romantic love. The definition of a hopeless romantic is “someone who is in love with love.” Yep. That’s me. So I write about it. It’s what makes the world turn, and it absolutely influences everything I do. I’ve loved a lot of people in my life, so why not turn that love for people into some memorable fictional characters and stories. That’s what I intend to keep doing for a very long time to come.