Works That Most Influenced My Own

Everyone has a few specific works that most influenced them growing up, and creators are no exception. For us, these influences find their way into our works. They leave their fingerprints not only on our hearts, but on what we make. To shed some light on which works have influenced my own, and how specifically they’ve done that, I’m going through my own biggest influences below. See which of them you’re familiar with!

 

Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings cover art

I was raised on this series since the age of 8, albeit originally just the movies. But as I got older and delved into the books, I was exposed to a world of fantasy unlike any I’d experienced before. Sure, I’d read fantasy before, but high fantasy was a different beast. This is where I first became enamored with the idea of creating a whole world’s mythology and its languages, along with the very pure battle between good and evil. In other works these themes can be sometimes murky, but I also appreciate the absoluteness, the surety of Good in the LotR.

 

Fullmetal Alchemist

Full Metal Alchemist promo art

I tell everyone to read or watch Fullmetal Alchemist (which if you’re going to do, watch Brotherhood; it’s far more loyal to the plot). I’m serious. Do it. This series combines so many different elements that no two chapters read the same, no two characters alike. This was one of my first fantasy reads where there was no monarchy (gasp!); it also has bone-chilling political conspiracies, and strong depictions of man toying with the universe’s natural order. There are a variety of character motivations and plot devices far outside the norm that propel the story forward. As it was my first encounter with something like this, it’s been my bar for success ever since.

 

Frankenstein

Frankenstein Cover

I’ve been handed a lot of classics in my school life, and I’ve often hated them. I expected the same with Frankenstein— but ended up loving it instead. Growing up with a lot of moral Black-and-White-ism, this book challenged me. I struggled with reading about a creator who had no ill intentions yet did foul things, with a character that tested the very idea of what it meant to be human, with seeing the innocence in things that were otherwise corrupted. These were monumental concepts to me at the time, and remain so today.

 

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII Promo Banner

I cannot state this clearly enough: Final Fantasy VII was a definitive game-changer for me. (To be fair, all of the works on here are, but you get my point.) Its story had as much an impact on me as Harry Potter, introducing me to a whole new type of fantasy world in the process; one with a brutal depiction of class struggles and environmentalism and humans manipulating the natural world in a ploy to become gods. FFVII was a triumph of a story in so many ways and is widely hailed as one of the best video games of all time. A lot of that credit comes down to its plot, and rightly so. The breadth of this story is on par with any epic, and has inspired countless ideas and characters and themes in my work.

 

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender promo art

I distinctly remember seeing this show premiere when I was 9 years old, and I’ve loved it ever since. This was the first piece of media I’d ever consumed wherein no one was white, for one. It introduced me to the concept that there were other cultures to draw from than just northern European ones–which shouldn’t be revolutionary, but certainly was for 9-year-old me. Here is where I first saw the perfect example of a redemption arc, a favorite trope of mine to this day. I saw that you could balance a story that was equal parts lighthearted and intense. So many parts of this series have found their way into my own.

 

There are many great stories out there. Some of my all-time favorites aren’t even on here– but I’m not trying to share those. I want to share the most personally influential works that have impacted my own, the ones that you can find threads of in my writings. (And maybe introduce some folks to a new, awesome story. Who knows?)

What works have had the biggest impact on you? Comment below!

If you’d like to stay up-to-date with my writings or be notified once The Stolen Sun comes out, you can sign up for my email list in the box below. (I won’t bombard you with emails, just send you an update or article about once a month.)


Until next time!
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What I Want to See More of in Fantasy

I love fantasy stories. It’s the genre I was almost exclusively raised on, from The Chronicles of Narnia to Harry Potter and beyond.

However, as I’ve gotten older and read more widely, I’ve developed a problem with the fantasy genre. No, it’s not the ever-present tropes or the derivative material, though that’s certainly made many stories stale. No, my biggest issue is with something else.

It’s the world-building itself.

This isn’t a list of what not to do in world-building, because I feel like conversations in that vein leave so much out of the broader picture. If I just say “don’t make a derivative European fantasy world”, that does nothing to point you in the right direction.

Here is what I want to see more of in fantasy:
Varied Medical Systems

Is it just potions? A wave of a magic wand and, bam, you’re cured? If so, I would advise taking a deeper look into developing your medical system. Is it tied to religion or purely science based? What is the basis of the medical system, and why? How did people gather their medical knowledge, or is it completely disorganized? Who gets medical care at all?

Significant Religious Systems

Religion plays a big part in our world, impacting politics, culture, and so on. However, this is rarely something I see in fantasy stories. If religion is acknowledged at all, it’s a relatively universal system with little diversity between nations. That would be akin to pretending only one religion (let’s say Christianity, for example) existed out in the world, and that there was only one sect of it, no less. Think of how different our world would look without that one religion.

Unless you want a neat and tidy and bland world, do something different. Create disagreements, create schisms and religious texts for followers to dispute over, create opposing beliefs, and so on.

Monotheism, polytheism, dualism, deism, pantheism, etc. The list goes on and on.
Different Governmental Structures

Look, I get it. Monarchies are cool. I certainly use them a lot in my stories, but there is SO much more out there, especially if you’re building an entire fantasy world from the ground up. There are democracies, oligarchies, stratocracies, crowned republics, and so forth. Is it realistic for a world to only have monarchs? How would different countries interact with each other, like for instance a parliamentary system engaging with a despot nation?

Mixed Gender Dynamics

While biological sexes are distinct, gender is very different. It’s a social construct. The roles and rules our society has made up surrounding them are just that. Made up. That’s not to say that they’re useless (which is a whole different discussion outside the scope of this blog), but it does mean that they’re mutable. And why should every society have the same way of looking at men and women, especially in fantasy?

Show me societies where childrearing is of prime importance, where men are the primary healers and teachers, where women have roles in governance and business. There are examples of these things in our own world, so why not in fantasy?

Above is a Mosuo woman of Yunnan, China, one of the world’s few remaining matriarchal societies.
Diverse Source Cultures

Look, there’s a lot more inspiration out there than just Medieval Europe. I promise. Many people draw inspiration from other pre-existing cultures for their works, and there’s more than enough material out there. Ancient Sumer (where my upcoming novella The Stolen Sun takes place), Korea’s Chosun dynasty, Mesoamerican Aztecs, Gupta period India, Ethopia’s Axumite empire, and so on. Spin the globe, pick a spot, and research that area. It’s a big world out there.

Our world isn’t a bland monolith. Don’t let your story be one.

 

Some people may feel bogged down with all of these questions, or that these details are boring. Thinking that way is missing the point.

Thinking about these things when world-building can generate a wealth of story ideas, add flavor and richness to your plots, and set it apart from other stories. It will only serve to distinguish and enrich your creation. I can’t tell you how few stories I’ve read that have variety in any of these aspects.

And wouldn’t it be nice to be original?

If you’d like to stay up to date with my writings or be notified once The Stolen Sun comes out, you can sign up for my email list in the box below. (I won’t bombard you with emails, just send you an update or article about once a month.)


 

Until next time!

 

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