Authors Answer 45 – Real World Influences in Fiction

When drawing influence for books, authors look in many places. They may get ideas from around them, from people they know, or from history. Today is the fourteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York. Events like this could have a big influence on writing.

Twin_Towers-NYCQuestion 45: It’s the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001. How much do major world events influence your writing?

Linda G. Hill

I try not to state the date in my writing unless it’s necessary, so there aren’t many world events that actually make it into my novels. But from a politically correct, I suppose you could say, standpoint there has to be some sensitivity to such things. I guess you could say they don’t affect my writing in a direct way, but indirectly I find myself watching what I write.

Allen Tiffany

They certainly influence the fabric of our lives, but I don’t perceive that they have materially impacted my writing. It feels to me that core themes of loyalty, loneliness, belief, love, hope, friendship, loss, etc., are bigger, more powerful and longer lasting than a single event no matter how shocking or traumatic it may be in its time.

Gregory S. Close

Yes, in two distinct ways.

1) As a human being, I am very distracted and involved in world events and human suffering.  Columbine, the 2004 Tsunami, Fukushima, 9/11…  any or all of them can throw me into a bit of a fugue.  I can dwell on it, generally not productively, and run the narratives through my head over and over trying to figure out how it happened, how it could have been prevented, what I would have done in situation A or B if I had been there, or if my wife or children or mother or brother were impacted.

That naturally leads to…

2) As a writer, building characters and situations within a story is certainly influenced by observing the world.  Both historic and current events can feed into the creative process.

D. T. Nova

A fair bit. The main reason I won’t change my first novel to be set in the year it’s published instead of the year I started writing it is because parts near the beginning involve references to then-current or recent events. (It’s likely to diverge into alternate history if I reference any real-life events in any potential sequel.)

I have a character who’s indirectly named after a controversial figure, a character who’s the religion he is because of what a certain organization has become defined by (though I don’t use the real organization itself in a fictional way), and due to the coincidence of a character’s birthday falling on the date of a certain real-life protest I even have characters participating in that.

Paul B. Spence

Most of my writing, not at all. My contemporary stuff, a lot.

Caren Rich

It’s not necessarily world events as much as national and regional events. Famous hurricanes, the Deep Water oil spill, and the Great Recession have all played a part in my writing. I think if you want your writing to be believable, you have to pull in “real” events. Those events don’t necessarily have to be the center of your plot, but I think it makes reading more interesting.

Jean Davis

While I don’t copy any real world events in my writing, I do draw upon the real evils of mankind when working on antagonists. Sadly, real people are often capable of doing worse things than the stuff I imagine.

S. R. Carrillo

I have no idea how to answer this question. 6_6 I suppose not.

H. Anthe Davis

I look back a lot on history for inspiration — for characters and themes as much as for events.  Since my work doesn’t involve the real world, though, I try not to be too affected by current issues; I have no interest in being ‘topical’.  That said, sometimes a real-world situation will illuminate something that must have happened in my own world’s history, so it will prompt me to fill out more of my backstory with my world’s reaction to a similar event.  Since you mentioned the WTC attack, though, I will admit that one of my major characters is basically a terrorist, but I conceptualized him that way back in ’93.

Eric Wood

This an awesome question. As I sit here and ponder this one, I attempt to make the connection between my writing and worldly events. I have a great respect for all those involved with the attacks in 2001. I was in university approximately 40 miles from the the plane that crashed near Shanksville, PA and was scheduled to teach a freshman orientation class that morning. But to connect that (an other events) to my writing is difficult. I suppose there’s no direct connection. Though perhaps I become more aware of what I’m writing and how it could affect the children who read my stories.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

World events do affect my writing, but mostly just in an emotional way. For instance, after a huge, horrible event like September 11th my writing will inevitably take on a somber and depressing tone. If there’s a big scandal in politics I might find myself creating corrupt authority figure characters. If there’s a mysterious tragedy, like the disappearance of a plane, then I might find myself drawn to writing about strange, supernatural occurrences. Basically, world events affect my mood and the way I feel about certain subjects, and as a result my writing is affected as well.

Elizabeth Rhodes

They don’t have a direct impact, but the influence is still there.  I don’t reference specific events, but certain movements and mentalities have influenced scenarios in my writing.  My interest in end of the world scenarios stem from a pessimism with current society that I think is common among a lot of people.  The 99% movement and working in service jobs influenced the plots of a few other stories of mine, but they aren’t fully fleshed out yet.

Jay Dee Archer

In my science fiction writing, there is some influence. I do draw on real predictions of the effects of climate change on Earth to create the future conditions that are present in the world. I have also used events in world history to create similar events in the future. But I think that it’s not so much the actual events that happen, but the way that people behave that influences me.

As for fantasy, I don’t use any real world events, and any events that happen in my story have very little resemblance to anything real, but human behaviour is what I get from real events. I think that’s the most important thing I draw from them.

How about you?

If you write, are you influenced by real world events? If you don’t write, do you like to see world events in novels? Let us know in the comments below.

8 thoughts on “Authors Answer 45 – Real World Influences in Fiction”

  1. I don’t put world events into my books but they do affect how I feel when I write. During 911 I felt a profound sense of loss for all of USA and couldn’t write anything positive until months later. At that time I was writing poetry but would not put all the sadness I felt into words. It took a long time for the USA to heal but scars run deep. We don’t want to forget those who lost their lives or those who took them.

  2. Reblogged this on C.K.Rich and commented:
    Today is September 11th, like most people I remember where I was 14 years ago. As a writer, I view events and pack them away for later use. Today’s Authors Answer is on how events influence our writing.

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