In my interview with fellow Chapeltown Books author, Gail Aldwin, for Chandler's Ford Today this week, she shares with me how her round the world bus trip influenced her flash fiction. She also shares some of the research she carried out into where paisley comes from given the title of her flash fiction collection is Paisley Shirt. One of the things I love about these kind of interviews is discovering what has influenced a writer to come up with what they have! There are so many influences...
This is also why every writer, regardless of genre, should read widely and well in non-fiction and fiction, classic and contemporary works. You are literally feeding your mind. You can't know in advance what book it is you read that will spark off ideas of your own. You will just know it when you come to it. So have plenty of fun reading lots of lovely books! It is good for your own writing.
I used to worry about picking up other writers' styles doing this but have found it not to be the case. I read something that sparks off an idea in me and I then write that idea down in my style only because, well, it is the only style I have. After all, doesn't every author want their work to be uniquely something from them? That's where the joy of writing is - in creating something that is unique to you.
A lot of the fairytales are retelling of stories passed down orally over many generations. Sometimes there can be agendas behind stories. Hans Christen Andersen must have had concern for the poor as his agenda behind The Little Match Girl (and probably the hypocrisy of people being horrified at what happened to his character yet doing nothing to allievate suffering themselves).
So what is behind your stories? Why have you created your characters as you have? I was surprised when I was looking back at my draft of From Light to Dark and Back Again how often the theme of poetic justice came up. That wasn't planned (well not consciously anyway). I also hadn't planned the variation in moods of the stories that formed the book (though it did help inspire the book's title!). Look back at what you have written and see if you can spot what is really behind it. It may well inspire other stories!