So, the other day I was challenged to post on Facebook ten books that impacted my life in some way. This prompted me into really thinking hard about the books I’ve read in my lifetime and consider the ones that really changed or impacted me.
I’ve decided to talk about some of the books that have impacted my writing. I was going to do ten books in this post, but it started getting a bit long, so I’m splitting this into two posts!
Let me start off with a disclaimer: when I was younger I hated reading. Although I knew how to read and would read if someone told me to, I never really found a story interesting enough.
Note: I never read/finished Harry Potter until last year.
It’s not like my parents didn’t encourage me enough. My sister was an avid reader so we always went to the library. I remember walking through the aisles and just seeing rows of book spines and feeling overwhelmed by the huge amount that were available to read. There were so many, how would I be able to choose?
It wasn’t until middle school where I was able to find some books that intrigued my interest in the library. From then on, I’ve read so many books in the YA section — fantasy, romance, etc and then as I got older I started reading more fiction. It didn’t matter to me what genre the books were in, I would find a story that had a good summary, and then I would get it.
So, now that you understand a little bit of my past, here’s the following books that helped shape my writing.
Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak was a book I read in high school. I remember seeing it in passing several times at my local bookstore and I’ve always picked it up and put it back. I don’t know what overcame me but one day I decided to buy it. I never read about that specific topic before. It was very different and very difficult to get through some parts, but the way it was written didn’t cause me to want to stop. It was engaging and I seriously couldn’t put the book down until I finished.
This was one of the books that got me into wanting to write about topics that are usually not talked about. When I wrote my feature screenplay for college, I had used this book (and movie) as a reference to help keep my story on the right track. I didn’t want it to be too descriptive, yet I wanted it to be enough to get the feeling/point across. I don’t think I would’ve been able to write that script the way I did, if I hadn’t of read this book.
I also was able to meet Laurie at a speaking event at my college. I asked her how she was able to get through writing that specific scene. She was super willing to offer advice about it and what I came away with was, don’t be afraid to write everything. Also, if you don’t feel anything while writing or reading it back, the reader won’t feel it either.
I’m so glad that I decided to read this book, without it, I wouldn’t have been able to write some of the scripts and stories that I’ve done.
Trail of Broken Wings – Sejal Badani
I know I’ve mentioned this one before… like a hundred times probably. But this book really did help my writing because of the multiple POVs and characters written for this story. I really loved the author’s use of multiple POVs and storylines that somehow wove together to create one big story. I found myself finding out more information from each character, that another wouldn’t have been able to reveal or tell you. It was an excellent use of storytelling.
What I’ve taken away from this book besides the compelling immigrant story was the technique. Most of the stories I had read in the past were just from one POV. The only other book with multiple POVs was Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. But that book only showed what the characters were going through each time they had the pants and it didn’t really give any more information other than that. With Trail of Broken Wings, I was able to learn more about the patriarch of the family throughout each chapter in different POVs. I learned how he affected the family and each character differently. The way everything was written and set up, the ending came as a huge shock.
I used this technique in my novella and I hope it comes out as great as Sejal did for her story.
A bunch of Classic Literature (I’m counting them as just one) like:
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
The way these stories ended were far from happy. It’s crazy to think about these endings because nowadays everyone wants that “happily ever after” ending. I think Disney kind of ruined it for most of us (no, hard feelings Mickey). I grew up in a “princess” generation, where even if bad things happen there will always be something or someone good that comes along to help you overcome it. It’s kind of funny to think about because, yeah, sometimes that can happen… but other times bad things happen and you have to figure out how to get through it on your own.
I think that’s why I started to gravitate towards these “classics”. These authors presented life in a way that they didn’t sugarcoat or add a happily ever after at the end. This helped me realize that we didn’t always need it. As a reader myself, I know we always want the character to “win” or get what they wanted. It’s because we want to know that it’s possible for us. But if you’re like my husband, you’d also want to read something realistic like “you can’t always get what you want”.
Each of the classics I mentioned were different in story lines and genres but they all had that reality complex to it that I can put them together in a similar category. Things happen and that’s the way it is. I love getting into the minds of others and figuring out why they do or act the way they do. I’m so fascinated with psychology that I think that’s why I’m intrigued and easily impacted by stories with characters and backgrounds that feel so real. While reading, you understand why they said or did it. You get why they ended up where they are.
I’m working extremely hard in shaping my characters and storytelling so that it comes out as great as these literary classics that I’ve read.
That’s all for today’s post! I’ll be writing up and publishing the second one later this week.
In the meantime, what books inspired you? How did they impact your life and your art?
Let me know in the comments!!
Thanks for reading!