Writer’s Craft #32 – Re-purposing Your Favs

Kari Terhark writes on getting mileage out of authors and scenes you love while making them your own.  (Lynda)

Kari Terhark
Kari Terhark

Kari Terhark lives in the Bay area and works as a financial analyst. She is working on her first novel, a historical fantasy adventure.

When I finally decided to pick up my pen and start writing, I was hit with the realization that writing doesn’t come naturally. Panicked, I took to the web in search of advice (and found Clarion, thank you!)

One of my favorite nuggets came from Steven King, who said he sets aside so many hours a day to write and so many hours to read. I’ve made this my mantra, and in eighteen months I’ve accumulated two piles: (1) books written by Nobel Prize winning authors, and (2) books written by authors who make their living from writing. I read with highlighters, sticky notes and pens; and anything that catches my eye is flagged. I’ll often play with passages, tweaking it into my own story.

Here is an example of ‘making my own’. The passage comes from The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. On page 46, teenage Minny is set down by her mother and given the 7 rules for ‘working in a White Lady’s house’. Here is what caught my eye: “Rule Number Seven: this is the last one, Minny. Are you listening to me? No sass-mouthing.”

Here is how it ended up in my novel: (Jonathon has just saved Andrew from a whipping, based on questionable charges of stealing):

“Sit down,” Jonathon directed. He ushered Andrew to the officer’s lounge before he could say anything further that might get him thrown overboard. “Here are the rules for working on the Oristeen. First, you must never…are you listening to me?”

Andrew had finished his loaf of bread and was reaching for the one Jonathon set aside for himself. “Yes of course, continue.”

Jonathon shook his head. “You must never be late for muster; Willem has stiff punishments for that.”

“Like vat?” Andrew asked with his mouth full. He poured himself a glass of old world wine to wash it down.

“After you finish helping yourself to the senior merchant’s wine and need to use the head, you may notice how clean it is.”

Andrew stopped chewing. “What else?”

In your own work, which authors do you turn to for inspiration? Does their influence ever show up in your writing? Can you give an example?


9 thoughts on “Writer’s Craft #32 – Re-purposing Your Favs

  1. One of my favorite scenarios is the unexpected rescue. The good guys are against the wall and believe they’ve been abandoned by a friend but he comes through in the end to save the day. Gandalf’s return in Tolkein and Han Solo’s change of heart in Star Wars are examples. Even when I know they’re coming, these scenes can make my eyes tear up. So I can’t resist working at least one such rescue into my own work over the ten novel saga. 🙂

  2. Linda, I too love the ‘unexpected rescue’, thanks for the reminder 🙂 Are you only adding one in ten sagas? If so, that will be quite an impact. Have you written it yet? I”m wondering what your hold out’s reasoning is 🙂

  3. In book 10, which I’m working on in draft, the hold out reason is “for the good of the empire” vs. personal connections. But the protag concerned is going to have a pet project up his sleeve. And the victims are helping themselves more than anticipated. Probably are some more “unexpected rescues” in the earlier nine books if I think hard about it. This was the one I was thinking about. Oh, and there’s Gandalf’s version in my tenth novel as well. The “missing and presumed death (maybe)” problem. Rel-pilots in my universe can “time slip” meaning when they disappear they might be lost for all time or they might have absorbed time debt and reappear in the future – usually if you are out for more than 24 hours or so you don’t come back and are counted dead. But there are some notable exceptions. Probablistic thing with the pilot’s will a factor. Great way to sneak in “return from the dead” drama without really killing someone. Don’t believe in bringing them back from honest to goodness dead is dead.

    1. Linda- I love the idea of time slipping, how creative 🙂 You’ll have to work into future posts how that works, and what that does to your story lines.

  4. There are a lot of author’s that inspire me. Although, I think right now I would have to say that Steven Erikson is probably at the top of the list, or at least near it (what can I say, I’m a fickle man).

  5. My inspiration more tends to come from the story behind the story than the writing itself. I love hearing stories of authors who have triumphed over depression, poor financial circumstances, years of rejection, etc. and found success at the end of the tunnel. Those stories are probably the only reason I am still writing.

    1. Mishell, there is a hilarious link out there that lists some famous rejections (of folks who have gone on to become big time authors). After reading it, I was good to write for a few weeks 🙂

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