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Five Things That Inspired Me This Year

Editor’s note: Last month, John and I got to talking about our 2013 experiences and the things that stuck with us. With that in mind, John has taken the time to talk about five things that had an impact on him. Not all are new, just things that inspired him.

Five Things That Inspired Me This Year

By. J.D. Warburton

     You have to read if you want to write.  When all the other kids were good at sports or math or whatever and talked about their gifts, I always wondered what my gift was?  I was good at reading.  That was it.  People told me that was my gift.  Some gift I thought.  They don’t have reading teams.  No one wants to sleep with the college level reader.  There are no reader’s Olympics.  I was always really good at essays though.  By late high school I’d realized that my love of film was at heart a love of story.  My desire to direct films was really a desire to tell stories.  By the time I hit college, I’d put the pieces together.  I wanted to write stories, and all that reading had given me the caveman level skills to do it.  I studied, Fiction Writing, I graduated, I advanced in certain ways, and I never quit reading.  If I ever do anything noteworthy enough to warrant a biography I promise all the details about what I just summarized.  For now you’ll have to wait with baited breath and settle for Five Things That Inspired Me This Year.

1.  NOS4A2—Joe Hill (2013)

Vic McQueen find lost things via a bridge that takes her from wherever she is to wherever or whatever she is looking for.  She needs a vehicle: a bicycle during her younger years, a Triumph Bonneville as an adult.  Charlie Manx lives for his ride.  Actually Charlie lives because of it in a sense.  Charlie’s Rolls Royce Wraith takes him to Christmasland, a place in his head mind where the corrupt souls of lost children can live in his idea of happiness forever.  Whenever he takes a child for a ride in the Wraith they lose their innocence, their souls, and their humanity.  Yes that dynamic is highly metaphorical.  No Charlie Manx is not a pedophile.  NOS4A2 is a horror novel, but it’s also a tale of self-destruction, love, and redemption.  I was inspired by the simplicity of certain elements and the imagination that made them work.  How does Vic’s bridge from lost to found work?  Well she uses her imagination to summon it into the world.  Thankfully Manx can’t manifest Christmasland into the real world.  He stills needs a vehicle to get there though.  So does Vic. Why?  Because to manifest imagination one needs a tool: a paintbrush and canvas, a camera, a computer.  In this fictional case they both need their rides.  The metaphor is so apparent to me that I don’t believe it’s accidental, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was consciously thought out and meticulously layered into the narrative.  Either way Hill made the fruits of his imagination work by making his characters use there’s.  And in doing so he fired up mine.

2.  The Wire—David Simon and Ed Burns, et al.  (2002-2008)

After literally years of friends, writers, crime fiction fans, and muggles alike telling me to watch this show I did in January.  All of it.  Holy Shit.  If you’re reading this then you either know the show or you know the hype, so I won’t bother with a recap of either.  Watching this show inspired me to put more vulnerability and humanity into my characters.  The protagonists don’t need to be right be all the time, or half the time, or at all.  A story can work because someone you don’t like gets it right and that causes the others protagonist to be able to act.  See the inroads that the Detail made after Omar started talking to them in Season One.  It also demonstrated how characters can evolve.  Witness Eliot Carver.  A borderline thug and definite corrupt officer in Season One who becomes a Lieutenant by the end of the show, as well as an empathetic, involved, and effective officer who cares about the people he polices instead of just closing a case or getting a payoff.  Also, the best goodbyes are short.  A fan favorite stops for a pack of smokes and gets shot in the head.  Sometimes it doesn’t need to be dramatic and drawn out ala Opie on Sons of Anarchy.

3.  100 Bullets—Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (1999-2009)

This is a genius comic that spans one hundred issues (surprise!) and features stunning intrigue, events that twist and weave and interconnect like a tapestry.  The characters are fascinating.  The overarching story is brilliant.  The fact that there are dozens of smaller tales that work as stand alones but also contribute to the whole make it even better.  Azzarello understands the way power and greed work in people and in society at large.  And that’s what 100 BULLETS is really about.

100 BULLETS showed me to not to be afraid of scope.  You can focus on the big picture as well as the small one provided you put your mind to it.

4.  The Great Gatsby—F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

We all read this in high school.  I wasn’t into it then.  I reread it because A) I should have a long time ago and B) the movie was coming out later in the year.  I loved it.  Language, characterization, structure, plot, conflict, all of it is there.  The closest definition I’ve got to a “literary” novel is something with no plot, not much action, and a lot of character development.  (I love character-centered stories, but the characters have to be FUCKING doing something!)  GATSBY got me to finally broaden my horizons.

5. ‘Salem’s Lot—Stephen King (1975)

This is horror at it’s best.  Stephen King is the King of the popular novel, the King of Horror, and one of the best novelists of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries.  (Only Don Winslow and Cormac McCarthy have written better novels in the new century.)  ‘SALEM’S LOT is King’s second and it left a mark on me.  I always liked the idea of a group of people teaming up to fight something that they don’t understand and likely can’t defeat.  I first read this when I was seventeen and along with MISERY it made me a die-hard King fan.  (Within a month or so I’d read ON WRITING and my path was decided.)  At that time I didn’t realize that the template I’ve just praised was likely inspired by THE LORD OF THE RINGS.  I realize that now, but I still credit King because his work inspired me.  I remembered a lot of this over the summer when I reread ‘Salem’s Lot.  I also remembered how much I admired that King tied in the whole town and made them complicit in Barlow’s reign or terror.  I don’t think it was meant as a metaphor for drugs or social decay, but it works as one.  The local drug dealer (vampire) moves in with the help of a prominent citizen (a realtor who has crooked deals galore to hide), gets a few customers (a child, an embittered town dumper owner), and soon the disease is spreading through the whole town (“let me in” “one hit won’t kill you man”).  All of that is to say that structure is the bones of story, genre is just the fancy clothes on the flesh (which is the story).  Most importantly reading ‘SALEM’S LOT was fun and that is as it should be.