Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?

Those of you who read my impotent flailings on Twitter know why I stole that line from the 1989 Batman movie. One of the questions I get asked is where do I get my ideas for my fiction. I’m all like, “I dunno, story fae?” I’ve heard somewhere that all stories are thematically one of the following:

  • Man versus nature.
  • Man versus society.
  • Man versus man.
  • Man versus machine, or in Greek, Deus ex machina.
  • Love conquers all.

Of course, in the examples above, Man is used colloquially to refer to humanity. Some of you know my day job is in broadcasting. A co-worker who has been a reporter for about 500 years likes to tout the oft repeated, all stories are derivative of only two works: Shakespeare and the bible. The problem with both of those lines of thinking is that it limits the writer to a narrow view of their works. The Shakespeare/Bible thinking is quite dated, with Shakespeare doing his work around the turn of the 15th century; the Torah generally acknowledged to have been written in the 12th century BCE; and the Ketuvim, Deuterocanonical, and New Testaments written in the first three centuries of the common era. We can be inclusive, and state that the Holy Quran was written during the 6th century and the Book of Mormon less than 200 years ago. I could go on about other religious texts, but you all would likely fall asleep.

Why the history lesson? For one, religion is an interest of mine, but mostly to illustrate the sheer age of these sources. We however, live in a modern society. We are modern thinkers. We get our ideas from popular culture. I steal them from everywhere: music, TV shows, movies, other books and something someone said to me that one time over there. Take my current project, Nala’s Story, fas an example: there are themes of what the Greeks called brotherly love. Obviously, Nala and Hazina are sisters, but marginalized people have been written about in the Torah (the Book of Exodus comes to mind); the Holy Quran (90th surah); and of course The Tempest, by William Shakespeare. Slavery could be categorized as both Man vs. nature & Man vs. society.

I’ve already written five more chapters in Nala’s Story, so you have yet to see the similarity to Kitāb alf laylah wa-laylah (Arabian Nights.) I’ve recently read the first two 5th Wave books, by Rick Yancy. Lots of oppression over siblings trying to protect each other in those. I’ve recently read Sand, by Hugh Howey. I see the almost pervasive privilege of The Shell Collector in Nala’s Story. I already mentioned in a comment that I see the world Howey wrote seeping through my writing. (Why the hell are there desert landscapes and themes in a story taking place in first century China?) I was definitely inspired by a fan fiction piece I think I read last year and have subsequently been unable to find again. I read a lot of Chuck Wendig, both his stories, blog and twitter ravings. Wendig writes frequently about sexism, gender inequality, privilege, homophobia and rabid badgers wielding light sabers from behind a swarthy beard of sentient bees.

I try to explore the themes Wendig and many, many others write about (well not the drunken robots, face bees, star wars stuff or rabid badgers), but I like to explore patriarchal versus matriarchal society. I know 16Sunsets is a sausage fest, but I try very hard to have strong female characters in Champion Standing, Nala’s Story, Victorious Maiden and SoulSmith. When I write a female character, I try my damnedest to make sure they aren’t just arm candy & hyper-sexualized (except Anne, she’s fuckin’ awesome), they’re not just the object of desire, prim & proper or even good examples of the women of the world.

I try to explore interpersonal relationships and sexuality without writing erotica. I’m not afraid to have characters from the LBGTQ community, and I worry that in my own ignorance, I’m being offensive. Me saying, doing or writing something and pissing off a bunch of people (or even that one guy or girl) is a common occurrence, but I don’t do it from a position of malicious intent. To steal a line from Wendig, I sit atop heteronormative white dude mountain. I cast my line into the world and see what my line drags in. (I’m currently reading The Old Man and The Sea, by Ernest Hemmingway, sorry for the fishing metaphor.) I know Wendig doesn’t see himself as a champion of a cause, or some sort of social justice warrior, but, damn, he inspires me to write more inclusive, more robust fiction that constantly pushes my narrow worldview. I want to be Chuck Wendig, not because he is a full-time professional writer and has a bazillion twitter and blog followers, but because he seems like a stand up guy. He calls out the dumbasses, smartasses and assholes, and doesn’t give a crap if any of those people hate him for it.

Well, I’m gonna wrap up this weird blog post with a summary: I’m influenced by pretty much everything in my writing, I find religion studies fascinating, and apparently, I have a man-crush on Chuck Wendig.

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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

2 responses to “Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?

  • Adan Ramie

    Speaking from a place far from Heteronormative White Dude Mountain, I thank you for doing what you can to write inclusively. Though, to be honest, I have been noticing a definite white-washing to my fiction that I am determined to quash with the WIP that I’ve been beating to death for the last few years.

    Having a platonic crush on Wendig is just par for the course if you’re listening to all those voices out there in the writing world. He’s awesome, right?

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