8 Things That Inspired Me to Be a Writer

I chuckle whenever I tell an editor or client  I've been writing since 2010. It's not close to the truth.

I've been writing daily since I was 5 and telling stories since I figured out how to speak in sentences. But I understand their question has to do with how long I've been professionally writing. Not counting scholarships and writing contests, 2010 is the first time someone paid me to just write for them (I had a few jobs prior where I did writing, but it was only a smaller part of the job description).

13 years of professional writing is a minnow in the sea that is the time I've been writing stories, essays, articles, and diatribes. I have had dreams of being a novelist and having published works for most of my life. I have loved writing and especially storytelling for as long as I've figured out how to pull up my pants. 

But what are the inspirations that caused me to want to be a writer? And what things have influenced and formed the style of writing that I gravitate towards? Well, here is a list that will reveal eight of them. There are far more, but these are the ones that I plucked out of my mind.

1. Star Wars: I have talked before about the impact this movie series has had on my life and my creative aspirations. The original transported me off to a galaxy far, far away where I was zapped with a love for movies but also captivated by this universe of imagination. My first stories were slight alterations to the original movie but then led to telling original fantasy tales with a healthy flavouring of Star Wars sprinkled in. The more I wrote then the farther I got away from Star Wars fan fiction, but my love for far-off worlds and odd creatures all started with this iconic movie.

2. Roald Dahl: There was a subversiveness and edginess to Dahl's stories that I always felt I was getting away with something by being allowed to read them at a young age. I never felt like the stories were being diluted to be more accessible to kids. Dahl would have been one of my first tastes of slightly darker fiction, even though they were still children's books. I've also gravitated toward the unique characters and worlds he has crafted with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and BFG.  

3. Choose Your Own Adventure: I have no idea how many of these books I gobbled up in my childhood. I would first try to 'win' the stories but then would go back so that I can discover every single path in the tales. I was drawn to the idea that I was the protagonist and I was actively participating in the story. It was reading a book but also playing a game. My experience with these books has sparked my interest in the idea of interactive fiction where the user is immersed and engaged in the story. I tried writing several stories in this style during my childhood, but sadly, none of them survived to make it to my adult years.

4. Roger Ebert: The famous critic is the inspiration for the title of this site, and the Siskel & Ebert movie review show influenced the style and format of The Movie Breakdown. For the first several years of writing, I kept a notebook of various stories and pieces of fiction, but around 10, I started writing my first pieces of non-fiction. Surprise, surprise, they were movie reviews much in the style of Ebert. The main reason I became a professional film critic in 2012 was my love for Ebert.

5. Stephen King: My love of horror started with my fascination with monsters, especially in things like Jabba the Hutt's palace or the Masters of the Universe. My fascination with monsters led me down the path to Dracula, the Wolfman, and various other iconic dark figures, which introduced me to the world of horror and scary stories.  The draw to King was initially his more monster-type tales like Cujo, Salem's Lot, and It. But then I suddenly realized something with his stories, they weren't really about the monsters, but rather about the communities and individuals trying to survive. They were deep character studies that were wrapped into some elegant and literary prose that happened to have grotesque monsters and imagery. King taught me that genre fiction can be elevated and beautiful even if the material is dark and disturbing,

6. The Secret of Monkey Island: Why yes, a video game can be a major inspiration for writing. But this is no ordinary video game, this is my all-time favourite video game along with the sequels (though, some of them I love far more than others). As a storyteller, my first reaction after passing the game was to try to write my version of a humorous anachronistic adventure. Actually, for a school project, along with a friend I created an adventure game with Visual Basic. While I never will have the skills to program a high-end game, I'd love to write the story and script for an adventure game. The inspiration is more than just writing a video game, as the style of Monkey Island mixing fourth-wall-breaking humour with high-stakes adventure has influenced some stories I've crafted.

7. George Orwell: Animal Farm and 1984 are two of my all-time favourite novels, but that is not the reason the legendary author has made my list. Orwell is also a famous essayist who wrote on various topics including politics, writing, travel, social issues, world events, and culture. I remember being required to read a few of his essays around Grade 6, and I was drawn to his vivid and insightful prose. It was then that I learned that storytelling is not just fiction, and it is not just in books, but a good column or essay can be just as immersive and entertaining. 

8. Shirley Jackson: I believe it was also Grade 6 when I first read the short story, The Lottery. The tale immediately haunted and entranced me, as it taught me that how you tell a story is just as crucial as the actual story. It was during my obsession with that story that I learned that the plot may be the most insignificant part of a great story. The Lottery is one of my all-time favourite tales ever and the short story I have reread the most but barely has anything resembling a plot but it is deeply engaging and immersive. I learned a lot about framing and pacing from the story, but it is also what took me down a path to gobble up all of Jackson's other great works, including The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, The Daemon Lover, and The Possibility of Evil. She is one of my all-time favourite writers and has been massively influential in teaching me style and composition.

What are some of the biggest creative influences in your life?