If We Are What We See:

Okay, honestly, I can’t filk this one, I’m not even going to try. I mean, the only thing that rhymes with See is knees and, not going to bother.

This post is obviously a continuation of “If We are what we read.” See, influences can come from anywhere. I discussed this way back when I discussed, “Ideas.” And I love action movies, I review them for goodness sakes. That’s how much I love a good action movie! And so while agents may ask me, “who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced you the most?” It isn’t just books that have influenced me and my style of writing. So, to me, it is a rather limited question that doesn’t give you the whole scope of why I write the way I do. I don’t know if going over movies and television shows is really going to help that either, but we’ll give it a solid try.

I mentioned somewhere that past the age of ten or so, my parents didn’t like television. So, while we didn’t have any sort of channeled television in the house, we did still have a VCR. (Those were the days.) I borrowed from a friend The Little Mermaid and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and played them often. I won The Lion King through a cereal box (the only cereal box prize I ever got worth mentioning) and when my second cousin moved in with us, that got played until I could repeat it by heart. I had all the original Star Wars movies memorized. And, odd as it may seem, I really enjoyed my father’s War Department video about the Memphis Belle. We also had a lot of Christian films that varied in quality.

It wasn’t really until much later that I started watching things that influenced how I write. I had been writing long enough at the time that I knew what I wrote and I knew what I wrote well, I just hadn’t ever put it together before I watched some of these films. And yes, there is a theme here.

The oldest of the films is also the most family friendly. Lilo & Stitch was to me, a genuinely heartwarming movie about the family you can choose and sibling relationships. The fact there was a funny fight scene between Stitch and Jumba capped with a very large explosion sort of topped it off. There is also a character named Cobra Bubbles, voiced by the wonderful Ving Rhames who I remember fondly from the comedy Dave. (If I have to explain how hysterical this is, then it sort of loses the funny factor.) There are aliens, and Elvis music and amazing and approachable animation from Disney. It is a very light science fiction movie that makes fun of itself and is over the top with sheer ridiculousness. And yet, it still manages to touch on heart breaking themes of being ostracized, the difficulties of single parenting, and what happens when siblings become parents. It was an interesting balance that made me laugh and cry and empathize with all the characters all at the same time. And I like funny, and I like ridiculousness and I like big explosions and family themes. So, this was a good example on how they could all be thrown into a big pot together and work.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith came out in 2005. This slow paced action movie about a dysfunctional marriage because of secrets with shoot outs, fights and the two main characters not only learning to work together but rediscovering the passion in each other that led them to get married in the first place truly resonated with me. It was a very different feeling type of action film. I recently wrote a review about this movie and discussed it in a genre mash up. This was the first romantic comedy mixed with an action film I’d ever seen. (If there were those that came out before then, I didn’t know they existed.) And I’m not fond of the typical romantic comedy fare. I find most of it rather contrived. Wheras, if you throw someone pointing a gun at you, I find it tends to cut through the lies and the beating around the bush. Or, it could be I’m just addicted to explosions. (Highly probable.) Before I saw this movie, I figured that you either wrote romantic comedies or you wrote action stories. So, this was about the time I started experimenting by mashing the two of them together. I wasn’t comfortable with writing action at first and really needed the practice. But, doing this allowed me to do two things I really loved, focus on the characters and their relationships and have lots of explosions!

In 2008, Sons of Anarchy debuted on FX. I didn’t pick it up right away, lack of television still. However, it was recommended to me by a co-worker and I bought the first season thinking that if I didn’t like it, I’d just move along. There were a few hiccups in the beginning. This show really is motorcycle porn. But, I found myself drawn into the story and the crosses and the double crosses not because of Jax, or Gemma (who is awesome) or Tigg (such an asshole, you have to love him) or for Tara, but for the damn baby. The beginning of season 2 didn’t thrill me. The first season’s rape plot made me hope for a lot better from this show and that Clay would show a brainstem and protect his woman, but no. I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue but then the finale happened and I had to go out and buy season 3 just to find out what happened to the baby! I highly doubt this was Kurt Sutter’s intention, but if it works, it works. So, when you cut out the motorcycles and the drug deals and the gun running and all the betrayals and government investigations, Sons of Anarchy was at its heart about family and what depths people will go to try and protect their family and keep it together. And really, the only way to tell the passage of time was to pay attention to the kids, as they grew, you knew time went on. Thank you California weather.

It also influenced the way I thought and organized my writing. So, in some ways, instead of looking at my books as a self-contained movie plot (which wasn’t really working out that well for me anyways), I started looking at them like a television show with big overarching plots with all these family and friends subplots woven into them and that each book was more like an episode or “series” of episodes. Sons of Anarchy gave me a better framework to use than what I had been doing. That and it is also acceptable to think only so far ahead, like in a ‘seasonal’ arc. That way, later on, you have lots and lots of wiggle room to add more ideas or change things instead of having things set in stone. But it is still very important to have that basic framework of “here I am in the story and this is where I want to go with it,” firmly in place before beginning.

My last influence, which I watched before I watched Sons of Anarchy, was the Expendables. The Expendables was a story about a man, who wasn’t a very good man, going back and doing something solely because it was the right thing to do. He didn’t have to go. He wasn’t being paid. He had no personal investment, but someone needed help and he knew he could provide it. So, he went. And his friends, who were like his family, didn’t want him to go alone, so they went with him. This became part of something integral I wanted to tell stories about, people doing the right thing because it was solely the right thing to do whether or not they were getting paid for it or anyone was watching. They weren’t saving the world. They weren’t even saving one corner of the world. They went in to try and save one person because saving that person was the right thing to do at that time. Those are the core stories I look for when I start writing a book. What is the core action plot that I want to work with this time? And then I build on the subplots of friends and family, Sons of Anarchy, style.

Overall, I think it is highly important to remember what we put in our bodies and in our minds is what ends up coming out of them. We literally are “what we eat, what we read, see and listen” to. Putting negative things into our minds, is going to result in putting negative things in our writing. I don’t want to do that. That’s not why I write. These films showed me that I could have the things I loved in books (and fanfic) and mix them together and have them be successful, which was both very validating and very freeing.

Now, if only there would be some more high fantasy live action movies.

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