All My Good Bad Influences

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As I edit away on A Bridge To The Quiet Planet, my tale of a techno-magical world and an interplanetary road trip involving holy books, I am busy finding out how I mishandled my good influences.

This is not due to my own genius, this is due to my amazing editor, who I am willing to introduce to anyone who wants to pay her money to edit.  She is fantastic at pointing out flaws in my work, leaving comments, and using search-replace to highlight all my common errors.  Some pages of my book look like a vengeful highlighter achieved sentience and attacked common word combinations it had a grudge against.

Between her feedback and her markup, I began to realize that my major influences were also ones influencing my flaws.  Allow me to explain:

First, there’s a chance if you’re inspired by an author or a creator, you won’t do it quite right.

Second, you may make the same mistakes your inspiration makes – and likely being less polished than they, you’ll make them worse.

Third, your inspirations together may not sit quite right.  You need to find a way to fuse them into a whole.

So what happened with me?  Well my editor noticed passive voice (lots of was), strange asides, weird wordplay, and moments I was abstract from the characters.  Nothing unusual, but then I looked at my inspirations and realized where I’d stumbled.

My core influences are Sir Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Dave Barry.  If you read my fiction, the inspiration is obvious – I love playing with words, exploring settings, and deconstructing ideas.  Take these trends too far and you end up with infodumps and trying to be too witty.

I was also influenced by anime, with the fantastical elements, fusions of genres, and passion for characterization.  Again, you can take these things too far – it took watching My Hero Academia to realize that I too liked to do giant flashbacks that could be handled better when not animated.

Finally, I love oddball character stuff of all kinds – indeed one sub-theme of A Bridge To The Quiet planet is that it’s basically several parties of unusual personalities having an adventure and colliding with each other.  Its a tale of magic and super-science and demons, but is basically about the people in this world.  You can get distracted by the oddities and details and loose touch with the fact these are people.

So I did too much infodumping, wrong details, wrong approach, and got a bit too full of  myself.  But there’s one more thing I forgot.

I was following several styles – I was not combining them into one.  I was doing a story of intimate character portraits and giant weird worlds, of human eccentricity and complex societies.  There was a feeling of discord, of the two not blending – or of one dominating the other.

In short I took some of my inspirations too far or in the wrong direction – and forgot to find a style that fit to realize all my inspirations.

As you edit your work, look to your inspirations.  Then find out how you might be doing them wrong – or doing them right and not harmonizing them.

-Steven Savage