How do we choose the stories we write? And is it a choice?
It's an odd question, I know. Of course it's a choice. We can write it, or not write it. Simple.
But is it? I've been thinking about how many people were surprised I wrote fantasy novels (even more than I expected), and I thought I'd write a bit about that, because I think it has larger connections beyond me. Or, at least, I'd like to find out if it does.
One of the reasons I write fantasy is becasue fantasy was first. That's what started it all for me, my mom convincing (read: forcing) me to read Tolkien's The Hobbit. This, of course, led to The Lord of the Rings, and entire worlds beyond that.
Fantasy was my first love. I read other stuff as a child, too, moving quickly from the Hardy Boys to Agatha Christie and Dick Francis. And some Sci-fi and horror, of course. And smatterings of other things. But it always revolved around fantasy, particularly of the epic sort. Magic, monsters and swords. And towers. No fantasy novel is complete without some sort of tower. (yes, I have a tower in my novel, I admit)
And maybe this doesn't seem like much, but I think it's important. First things, especially if loved and deeply invested in, are important. Indeed, they're influential. They create patterns and imprints in the mind, and this was certainly the case with the young reader I was.
Fantasy novels became part of how a growing mind conceptualized the world, how I framed and interpreted it. It influenced, subtly, how I understood the story of my own life. My values, my experiences, my wants and needs, my desire for replica swords (or real ones - you know, just in case).
These stories were what first inspired me to write, first set stories of my own circulating inside my head. And this genesis of a creative interest is hard to leave behind, I think. My creativity is, in some sense, tied to these stories, these patterns woven through me. My reflections and thoughts on the world are still somehow reflected through a mirrror of the fantastic and strange.
Certainly, as my reading tastes expanded my choice of stories to write expanded as well. I read more literary now than anything else, and I've written a lot of that. But I'm still drawn to those original stories, the sense of the fantastic, and, yes, to magic, monsters and swords. There's such a pure sense of creation, of wonder. They activate, in a sense, the child's imagination within me, that need, that demand, to explore, to find and devour the strangeness of existence.
These stories are part of me. I don't think I could escape them, even if I wanted to. And I don't.
What about you? What did you start with, and what kind of an imprint did they leave? Do they still influence your writing?