Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: Unexpected Influences

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Unexpected Influences

I'm presently about halfway through doing the hand-annotated copies for early Soulwoven backers. Doing them has forced me to look at the book in a different way than I have before. Among other things, it's meant scanning for influences and spotting broad trends, because I jump around from page to page and sort of skim, which isn't a normal part of my writing or revising process.

One of the trends I've spotted is an unexpected influence.

I've never been a huge consumer of stories in the horror genre. When I was a kid, they terrified me. Like, seeing movie trailers for scary movies would give me nightmares, never mind the movies themselves.

And yet horror has its fingerprints all over key moments in Soulwoven.

It starts with the descriptions. When things get dark, really dark, the characters begin to see the world in the way that characters in horror stories do, where everything is out to get them. And their descriptions reflect that fact. There's a character with sharpened, yellowed teeth. There are undead crawling out of the ground and terrorizing people. And there's the dragon itself, floating in their minds and taunting, taunting, taunting them.

Soulwoven is a fantasy novel. There's no doubt in my mind about that. But if you wanted to, you could plot it against the structure of a horror novel and find a surprisingly high correlation. There's one (short) chapter, in particular, that's more ghost story than anything else in terms of structure.

So apparently, even though I didn't enjoy horror stories much growing up, and I still don't read a ton of them, they left a strong imprint on me. Maybe it's because they resonated so strongly with me that I didn't enjoy them. Or maybe it's because they terrorized me so much that their elements burned themselves so deeply into my brain. I can't really be sure.

But they're there nonetheless, and I don't think they're going anywhere. I suspect all writers have these sneaky little influences. There are things we're aware of that shape us (for me, Tolkien, Martin, Kay, Gaiman, Mieville, Hickman and Weis, the teams who wrote the Final Fantasy games, and much more), and there are influences we're not aware of until after the fact. With all the hours I've spent staring at and analyzing and fine-tuning this book, it's amazing to me that I continue to find things inside it I didn't know were there.

Incidentally, I think "What Lies in Darkness," the horror novellette I wrote for All Hallow's Write last year, is one of the best pieces of short fiction I've ever put together. It's up for free here on the blog as well as on Wattpad, and if you've got the stomach for horror, you might want to check it out.

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