As I was brainstorming what to give you guys for Media Monday, I remembered an ancient meme from DeviantArt: The Influence Map. I’ve been wanting to do one of these for myself for a while–but instead of mapping influences on my drawing style, I wanted to map influences on my writing.
The idea is that you trace the things that have helped you steer toward the artist you’ve become–the shows or movies you watch(ed), the books you read, the places you’ve been.
I found the challenge both enlightening and difficult (especially my overall style one). But there’s a great benefit to intentionally thinking about these influences. When you know the things that have helped form you, you can use them to make your writing stronger.
A quick example: Mrs. Mike is on my influence map because it was the first book that really, really brought home to me how a place/setting can be a character. Before reading this book, my settings weren’t great. But that book whipped up a passion for place. Now, I’m often told by my CPs that my settings are vivid and well-formed. By recognizing that Mrs. Mike impacted my writing in such a big way, I can intentionally reflect on the ways that book did setting successfully and try to bring those lessons into my own writing.
There’s my example, presented without comment because I don’t want to bore you guys. (If you want to find out more about what’s on there, you can check out an entry about it on my personal blog, here.)
This little graphic doesn’t capture nearly all of the things that have influenced my writing, but it does encompass a lot of the highlights.
A simpler (but also fun) way to use influence maps is to map one single project. It’s sort of a like a Pinterest board, but it reflects the things that formed your story instead of pictures that look like your story.
Also, doing this for a specific project can help you think about your book in summary, which can in turn help you with synopses or query letters. Just looking at my influence map, I could say something like: Illuminate is a YA Twelfth Night meets Sense and Sensibility set is pseudo-Venice, where mermaids and plague threaten to destroy Perl’s life as an assistant-illuminator.
Not a perfect summary, but it’s well on its way there!