Monday, August 30, 2010

What Has Influenced My Writing

Good Monday Morning (or afternoon or evening depending on when you might pop in to see what is going on in my crazy world).

So, I didn't actually see any movies this weekend because we went on a weekend family vacation. Often, we'll rent movies in the hotel, but we were so blasted tired by the time we got back to the room, that we passed out soon after our girls :-). Those of you with kids know that a vacation with kids, isn't so much a "vacation" in the sense of relaxation. It's one of those vacations that you need a vacation from.

I decided therefore to talk about how my writing tends to be more influenced by television and movies than reading, which in turn, brings me into the topic about why I have not always been an avid reader (as I mention in the About Me tab of the blog). This will be the longest post I probably EVER have so please don't be intimidated to come back!! :-)

When I sat down to think about why I did not grow up loving reading, I had to really dig deep and think about the why's behind it and what I have found is that I'm not totally sure I can attribute it to any one thing, but several.

Reading, from my earliest experience/memory, was something I remember being associated with work. I never really loved school, wasn't one of those kids that it all came easy to. My entire scholastic career (up to my masters in elementary education) was always a struggle for me. I even wanted to quit high school when I was 16, but my father somehow convinced me to stay in and I'm glad he did. But why did I hate school and reading so much? Because my teachers did not inspire me. Period. Education is quite different now then it was back then (at least here in NY, which I know because I have taught in the system). Back when I was in school, reading for me was associated with an assignment, usually a book report which I DREADED.  I found it very hard to read a book and summarize it.  I remember reading a lot of Nancy Drew books and loving them, but I read them not just for pleasure, but for homework. As I said, school was always a bit hard for me (and truth be known...I was also dealing with a lot of emotional issues that stemmed from having an alcoholic mother who was constantly in and out of my life--my father raised me from the time I was 6).

I also believe that there wasn't the availability of the great and amazing amount of MG and YA literature back then that there is now. At least I don't remember ever being introduced to it. And when we read in school, we often all read the same thing as a class and it didn't matter what level reader you were. Instruction was not differentiated back then, which meant the lower level readers had to try and keep up with the same stuff that the more advanced readers were flying through with ease. Talk about a struggle!

Another reason I believe I was not an avid reader was because books weren't a huge part of my home life. My father was always a reader, but he was a reader of Non-fiction (mostly biographies and autobiographies), and newspapers (which to this day, he reads 2-3 newspapers cover to cover every day). Obviously, as a kid, current events was not all that interesting and again, it was associated with school: Read an article from a newspaper and summarize what you learned. Bleh. How friggin' boring!!!!

Another major, contributing reason (and maybe one of the biggest) was television. Not that I sat in front of the tv all day because those of you old enough to remember, before VCRs and DVR and all the other VRs in the world, there was only a limited time to watch kid shows and if you missed it, you missed it. No rewinding, no recordings to watch it later, no hitting a button on the remote control to give you a menu of all your saved shows. Television dramatically changed during my childhood with the invention of cable. We went from having 7 channels to God knows how many. I even remember sitting around my living room with the Rock Reggae band from England that my dad was managing at the time to watch the very first music video ever (back when MTV was actually about music :-)). I found television to be very entertaining and easy to enjoy and it wasn't associated with school! It was pure pleasure and therefore I was drawn to it.

There's also the fact that I kind of grew up in the heart of NYC. I spent more time indoors than I believe kids in suburbs do. I had a place to hang out with my friends in the building (a large plaza area that was private to residents), but there was no playing in the driveway or riding bikes with friends around the neighborhood. It wasn't safe to hang out in the streets of Hell's Kitchen when I was a kid. I went to the theater growing up (and to see amazing ballet performances and concerts at Lincoln Center) with my grandmother who adored the theater experience. I also went to a LOT of movies because that was the big thing to do for me and my friends. Every weekend we'd go to the movies (I grew up 3 blocks from Times Square)--sometimes we'd see 2 movies if we could sneak into another movie in the theater unnoticed. I also sort of grew up in the entertainment industry. I had an agent when I was younger and went to a lot of auditions, but I was just too nervous in front of the camera to ever land a real role (though I did shoot one commercial for Honey Comb cereal, but I'm not sure if it ever made it to screen). My father (and many of his friends) was a stand up comic for many of the early years of my life and later many of my father's friends went on to become writers of many well known programs, and my father went on to become...well, himself, for which you can discover who he is here (I'm pluggin' for ya daddy-oh :-) haha, and yes, I used to be a blonde LOL) so I was constantly surrounded by that world and still am to an extent, as I have a lot of people I grew up with that have gone on to become very successful actors who I love watching on television and on the big screen.  I even studied acting at the famous Actor's Institute for a time because I thought that was the path I wanted to go and God knows I had some crazy connections in that world, but alas, it was not what I wanted to do even though I was told I had talent for it. I tried to picture myself in California, living the life that actors live and I realized it was not what I felt would be a fulfilling life for me.

I think my experience and love for acting (even though I chose not to pursue it as a career) further influenced my love for movies and television and to this day, I LOVE watching both.

I dont' think it's true that you have to be an avid reader to be a great writer. Although, now that I have discovered a new found love for reading, I do believe that it can only further add to my ever developing skills in the art of writing. I think what makes a good writer is the ability to tell a kick ass story (no mater what the genre) and some basic knowledge of grammar and writing mechanics. I read a LOT of plays during my years, especially while studying acting, and I think that it has really helped me in my ability to write dialogue. I also have the most important thing that any writer needs and that is 1. a good imagination, and 2. life experiences. And part of my life experiences that I believe has helped me in my writing is all the movies and television I've seen because when I write (and even when I read), it only works if I can see it like a movie in my head.

It's funny that writing has come in to my life not too long after a real love for reading has. I do see now that they are intertwined, but I believe that I do have a knack for this writing thing and it didn't come from a life time of reading, but a life time of experiences and yes...television and movies. As an example,  when I tried to figure out how I came up with my story, what it was that influenced my idea for the story, plot and characters, I realized that my book can be best described as X-Men meets Girl Interrupted with a large slice of Taken. Reading is now a very important part of my life (although I still tend to stay away from all things poetry, but that my friends is a sad story for another post) and I know as I read more and catch up on a lot of great literature that I have missed over the years, it will only add to my experience and make my writing that much stronger.  But I will always have a very strong passion for televsion and cinema and I for one don't believe there is anything wrong with that.


  1. Interesting, informative, insightful. Your blog is good read. Keep it up. kk

  2. OMG, Mel, your dad is the REAL KRAMER!! How cool is that? LOVED the YouTube video. Seinfeld was a fav back in the day (as it was for so many). That is just super cool. Hubby and I are dying to visit NY and we're thinking next summer for Thrillerfest might be just the right time.

    Great post and, while I've devoured books since the moment I could read, I absolutely agree about other influences. I think it would be impossible to say we're not heavily influenced as writers by all that surrounds us, including TV and theater (stage and screen). I love hearing stories about people who discover reading at any age, so thanks for sharing!

  3. Great post Mel!! I can't remember if you sent me that video before - it's so cool! You look beautiful blonde or brunette, and it's neat to learn more about you.

    Reading through my life - I guess I did read a lot growing up, but I got into adult lit pretty young. I read my first Stephen King book when I was just 11 and was reading Danielle Steel shortly after that. I remember this biddy old lady in the school library looking at my books when I was in junior high and asking, 'are you sure you should be reading that, honey?'. Haha... I actually found a pornographic book in the library once - it was called Riptide (see how obscene I am that I remember the title of that book after 25 years?), and there were threesomes and everything in it. If she had ever known about that one!!

    Anyway, I'm glad that you've found a passion for books and writing later in your life. You ARE very imaginative and creative and I know you'll have great success.

    Happy reading!

  4. i love this post :)

    you articulate everythign so well and i agree writing is about telling a good story and inspiration comes from anywhere and movies are so inspiring and tell some of the most moving and awesomest stories out there.

    i love all that you have to bring to writing and yeah - you do great dialogue :)

    i love the htree movies you use to describe your book - such an awesome combo - love all three of those movies and it's so true - your book is a cross of all of them

    speaking of your book... i'm having withdrawal!


  5. and, how bad are my typos? haha.


  6. You guys are so awesome! Thank you for taking the time to read my blah, blah, blog and for commenting.

    kk, thanks for the kind words :) your love and support are EVERYTHING to me.

    Joann, thanks for all the support you have given me (and continue to give me) on my blog. I feel like I would have never gotten to know more about you or your work if I hadn't gotten into the blogging world, so I'm grateful that Angie and Nomes stayed on my arse about doing it. And I look forward to learning more about you and from you in our journey in the world of writing (and tv and movies and theater hehe).

    Angie and Nomes, I swear to God you guys are my rock in this journey. Your constant support and love and being able to share the good and the bad, the awesome and the ugly and the ups and the downs, means more to me than you could know. You guys rock my cyber world!!!! (and my real world too :-) )

    Nomes, you can typo me anytime you want. haha...sorry about not getting the rest to you yet, but it sure makes me feel good to hear you say that :-). I just sent Angie, several chapters to have a go then I'll revise and get them to you. I'm almost done. I have given myself no more than two weeks to finish. I MUST GET IT DONE!!!!

  7. My writing is highly influenced by television, and to a lesser extent, by movies. Of course, I also read a lot, especially back when I was a teen, but I kinda stopped during college and a few years afterward. My plots and characters are probably most informed by my favorite television shows (particularly anything by Joss Whedon).

    Oh, and music. I have a lot of music-inspired stuff.

  8. Thanks Sage for your post! It's encouraging to hear that others are highly influenced by television and film as well because I feel there are so many people who carry this anti-television sentiment, but to this day it is such a HUGE part of my life. I admit that I probably would have read more if television hadn't been so easily available, but I don't regret the experiences and joy it has given me and continues to give me. And, definitely inspires my writing. I have entire scenes that were influenced by particular songs and my MC was pretty much formed from the entire album of When the Pawn by Fiona Apple.


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