The Influence of Reading on My Camp NaNo Project

I just finished my Camp NaNoWriMo novel, and in this novel in particular I was able to notice something that I’m sure happens in my other works, but I’ve never really paid attention to until now.

You may recall my recent goal to read 15 books before the end of the year as a way to stop neglecting the very important work of reading as a writer. Yesterday, that challenge paid off.

During Camp NaNoWrimo, I was writing a children’s book that transformed itself into a middle grade novel.  That means it is in the same category as The Chronicles of Narnia and the first Harry Potter book, to give you some context. It fits in the 7-12 age range.

While writing, I read two books in that middle grade category.

The first was The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis. Throughout my story, which involves my main character, Issac travelling to a new world, I could detect Lewis’ influence over my world. Lewis has such a particular way of storytelling which is especially vivid in The Magician’s Nephew where Narnia is first created that I found myself adopting the same musical language in bringing the world Issac discovered to life.

In fact, there are certain spots and paragraphs where I even switched perspectives unexpectedly to write as an omniscient narrator, like the narrator in The Magician’s Nephew. I can pinpoint spots where I so totally adopted the style of Narnia that I can say, “Oh, that was Lewis there. That’s when I was reading about Aslan’s song. Oh, that is when read about Jardis grabbing the lamppost.”

The second book I was reading is one of my favourites called The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. There are so many reasons why I love this book that I will explain another time, but in this case, what is important is a little history.
The story I was working on during this past Camp NaNo, dubbed Issac Normal, was actually a rewrite of a story that I wrote in a grade 12 creative writing class. When I first wrote the story, I heavily based my characters, and their personalities on the characters of The Mysterious Benedict Society. I purposely did that because of how much I loved the series and how much I felt it would be relatable and understandable for children. When I had initially written Issac Normal, it had been a few years since reading Mysterious Benedict Society, long enough that I didn’t remember the particular words that Stewart used, but recent enough that I remembered the plot and the feeling I had from each of the characters.

I was in the middle of Mysterious Benedict Society when I began rewriting, and almost everyday I was immersed in Stewart’s world and characters. It would have been impossible to separate that world with my own writing. I found that an overarching change had occurred in my story. I had taken what I loved about each of Stewart’s characters and thoughtfully considered those traits for my own characters, but when I rewrote and lengthened the novel, I found the characters I built weren’t alive enough to go along with the plot. I naturally adopted what I thought would deepen the characters—introspection.

In reflection, I see that had I not been reading Mysterious Benedict Society I would have probably chosen more tangible changes in the actual action of the plot, rather than the internal feelings of Issac and his friends in reaction to the plot I already had. What I ended up with, because of Mysterious Benedict Society is a subplot that I didn’t realize my story needed. I have the actual events of the story, but running parallel, I have Issac learning about himself and his friends as he tries to process everything that is happening to him.

In this case, it’s not so much the words I used that make my story like Stewart’s, but rather the method of storytelling. Stewart’s world is heavily based around the internal monologue of his main characters rather than pure action, and unconsciously I have adopted a similar method of storytelling.

All this to say, the influence I’ve seen from being immersed in both my story and the stories of others has greatly changed the way I wrote during July and I highly enjoyed it.

Do you notice the influence of other writers in your own writing? Which authors influence you?

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2 thoughts on “The Influence of Reading on My Camp NaNo Project

  1. Chiante,

    Another thoughtful, beautifully written post. Thanks so much for the wonderful glimpse into your writing journey. I find it interesting and inspiring.

    You ask the question if we notice the influence of other writers in our own writings? Oh yes. I can usually tell because I’ll use an author’s phrases and sometimes absorb her style. When I sometimes reread past entries in my journals, I’ll recognize something that makes me say, ‘Oh, you must have been reading so and so at the time.’ Sometimes these shifts stay a part of me, and other times, they’ll disappear when I’m reading a new author I’m in love with.

    Liked by 1 person

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