When I was a teenager, I got Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson. It is about a leper who gets transported to a fantasy world that he thinks is all in his head, hence the unbeliever part of title for the series: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever. Yes, this was a trilogy. At the time I received the gift, a second trilogy had already been released, and I bought all the books to read and enjoy.
I must admit, I haven’t reread, and I never quite got around to The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which I think is up to four books. Still, the original trilogy makes my books of influence list. The story is memorable, the writing is decent, and it was my introduction to series longer than three books. If you like a world or a character that an author creates, you can return again and again for new stories. At least until something else catches your interest.
Lord Foul’s Bane was probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. It has also been one of the costliest, if you factor in all the books I’ve bought in all the series I’ve read. The gift that keeps on costing money.
Like many, I first read To Kill A Mockingbird when I was in High School, and, like many, I did not enjoy the book. The story left so little impression on me that just a few months after reading it I would have been hard pressed to summarize the plot or even name any of the characters. So why would I include the title on a list of books that influenced me?
When my son was about 11 he picked a couple classics to read, and one of his choices was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Naturally, I had to reread it, and that’s when I discovered how much I liked the book. During High School I had to read so many depressing books that they all blended together and none of them stood out. This is a shame because I’m sure there were plenty of other books that I glossed over for the sake of getting the work done instead of reading them for the story.
So, To Kill a Mockingbird is on the list of ten books that influenced me because it is one of my son’s favorite books. Rereading the book to discuss it with him led me to discover it is also one of my favorites.
This is the first of a series of blog posts inspired by a Facebook meme to list ten books that influenced me. Since no one on Facebook wants to read the stories behind why those ten books influenced me, I decided to use a medium which encourages long-winded reflection. The first book I I put on the list was The Hobbit, and I can’t think of that book without thinking of The Lord of the Rings. Instructions be damned, the number one slot is filled by more than one book.
My 6th grade English class was probably not typical. The assignments included reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Reading those books marked the beginning of my love of fantasy. Elves, dwarves, dragons. I couldn’t get enough of them, and I confess to reading some poorly written knockoffs, especially during my teenage years. I read The Hobbit several times when I was young. Rereading The Lord of the Rings would not occur until I was an adult, probably because the writing style is a bit more sophisticated.
If I just contemplate who I currently am, I can’t imagine not being interested in the genre of Fantasy. I’ve read so many books and stories that it has become part of who I am. Retracing the steps that led me to this point reveals a fork in the road. If I hadn’t excelled in school and been in the advanced class my hobbies might have ended up entirely different. Perhaps I would not have read anything that sparked my interest and reading would have taken a back seat to some other activity entirely.
We all like to think of ourselves as independently choosing how to spend our free time. The music we listen to, the movies we watch, and the books we read by choice are not foisted upon us. Yet no man is an island. We think of parents, friends, and teachers as having influence, but rarely do we contemplate how different we would be without the subtle social programming of society. Each individual makes his choice, not alone, but with the ghosts of all those who have touched his life.
Here it is the end of November, and I don’t have a 50,000 word novel to taunt everyone with. I started strong with high hopes and then stalled. I did not despair*. I kept writing, although not every day and the word count fast became anemic. Then I had a revelation. The cure for my writer’s block turned out to be the speech recognition software that came installed on my computer. There is nothing like talking to inanimate objects to jump start my creative enthusiasm. Yet this revelation came too late in the month to get me to the goal.
Still, this year is a success in other ways. My son was absolutely delighted with how the computer interpreted my dictation when I tried to speed things along, so it was entertaining. I was able to take several failed plots and combine them into a half way decent story line, so I think I may finish Mumbled Inconsistencies at some later date. Most importantly, I found an excuse to talk to another inanimate object.**
**Did I just say ‘another’ out loud?
I must confess, my preparations for NaNoWriMo this year could easily be called procrastination. Two weeks before November what was my main focus? Knitting a sweater. What? You mean to tell me that most people don’t count knitting a sweater as novel preparation? Well, certainly baking a loaf of sourdough bread from scratch on October 31st is a more common practice. No?
I did manage to drag myself to a Midnight Kickoff, only arriving about 15 minutes after midnight, to start writing. And I’m almost to my word count goal for the day. And the five characters that I introduced in the exciting breakfast scene have potential. Never mind I haven’t introduced a main character yet. These things take time. I’ve got all month.
Oh, and the sweater turned out rather sweater-like.
It is often difficult to begin a new creative work. Little things can trip you up. Names, of all varieties, can be particularly vexing. Sometimes what you choose to call a work in progress can inspire you even when the wells creativity run a little dry. Picking a title for my book is an important step for me. Even if said book never lives up to its name.
This year, my NaNoWriMo novel shall be (pause for dramatic effect): Mumbled Inconsistencies.
This fits perfectly. Every time I try to summarize the plot, it ends up sounding like a jumbled mess of failed ideas. Which is what happens you when you try to squish all your stories that weren’t worth more than a couple thousand words together. And since I spent those agonizing minutes searching random words to assemble this title, I’m sticking with it even if I suddenly come up with a fully formed plot that in no way reflects Mumbled Inconsistencies. It reflects my creative process, and that is what matters at the moment.
November isn’t even here, and I’m already distracted. Impromptu photo shoots take time. Some of my fellow novelists have threatened to outline a plot for me if I don’t find any inspiration.