Friday, May 21, 2010

Imagination by Osmosis

So Carrie made a comment on Jen’s post Fan This about how she “borrowed” from Lost by using a similar flashback set up in her story. Which got me thinking about the whole borrowing ideas thing.

I think it’s impossible for us not to borrow all the time. What we write, the stories that pop up in our heads are based on our life experiences. These experiences OF COURSE include the shows we’ve watched, and the books we’ve read. How can we not be influenced by what has come before us? Heck, even Diana readily admits getting the idea for her Jamie by watching an old episode of Dr. Who featuring a gallant young highlander named Jamie.

Experience sows the seeds of imagination. Stories influence other stories. Would there be a Harry Potter without drawing on other myths and legends?

As for myself, here is a snip from my WIP, Snow. After finishing this little snip, I realized that two movies had forged an image in my mind. Ones that I obviously borrowed from readily. :)

The Snip:

The best thing to be said about the Golden Triangle Tavern was that provided protection from the rain. Gwyn held tight to her thick cloak, now nearly damp through and through from the great sheets of rain that fell from the sky. The insidious scent male musk, fermenting grain, and unwashed bodies assaulted in a palpable wave of dank air.

I cannot, I cannot, I cannot. She took a slow breath. Pretend that you can. Perhaps a good bluster was all that was required. She would pretend. Like in a play. She thought of the times she put on one-girl theatricals for the staff on Boxing Day. She must have been awful but the staff would always clap and praise the abandoned little girl-child they thought of as their own, before taking her down to the local inn for a treat of warm cider and pudding. Buoyed by happier times, she moved forward. Her booted feet crunched over an uneven floor strewn with straw, discarded food, and God knew what. The room was so dark that the bodies within seemed shadow creatures laying in wait to swoop forth and carry a soul away.

At her side, Iona grumbled something that sounded vaguely prayerful before clamping her meaty hand down hard on Gwyn’s elbow. It did not matter that she was covered from nose to toes in a drab woolen cloak; the men in the room seemed to know that the cloak hid a prize –female, and undefended. Coarse faces peered at her, viewed from the fan of her lowered lashes. From the wavering blue light eking through the thick bottle glass windows, their eyes appeared no more than chips of glass. With her free hand, Gwyn touched the necklace hidden beneath her cloak. Nothing to see here. Nothing of interest. A pulse of warmth flowed through her and outward. It hit the men with visible force. They knew not what it was, but the attention on her suddenly ebbed as though she had become nothing more than a passing vision, a miscalculated thought. No, they’d been wrong. There was no maid within this room.

Iona leaned close. “I see a good candidate. Far corner, near the empty hearth, where the Mirror said he’d be.” Her warm breath puffed across the tip of Gwyn’s exposed nose. “Empty hearth. Cold as a witch’s teat in here. Think that they could spare a log for the fire.”

“I do not think it is fire that warms these men,” Gwyn murmured back. The sharp, almost flowery smell of gin, picked up by the open and closing of the tavern door, stirred across the damp wood bar and her eyes watered. She blinked rapidly and risked a look toward the back of the tavern. There, in a dark corner, sat a man, no more than large mass of black, another shadow, one that did not move. Every hair stood up on Gwyn’s body. She was being watched. By him. The one man in the room who will not look away. Aye, he was the one. The nameless man.

Her icy fingers clenched. Bluster. With a deep breath, and an unfortunate fill of foul air, she went to him. Her knees ached in protest, her limbs wanting to turn and run the other way. No longer of interest to the men, she cut through the crowded room like a sharp knife through suet. The shapeless shadow before her began to take form. Broad shoulders, long legs. He wore a long, thick cloak of some dark color, and not the typical tricorn of fashion but a high-crowned hat with a wide brim that shaded his face from view. A hunter’s hat; the thought leapt strangely into Gwyn’s mind as she stopped before him. The man in question took a moment to acknowledge the presence of two lone females before him, and when he did, it was with a slight lift of head.

An awkward silence descended. Awkward perhaps for Gwyn; she rather thought the man sitting in unmoving silence could not care less if she stood there for the rest of the day. Iona shifted, irritation mounting within her like a steaming kettle. Gwyn put a silencing hand on her when explosion appeared eminent then addressed the man.

“Are you…”Gwyn hesitated. “Ah, the man without a name?”


“That is to say…I’ve heard you, that is, I understand that the man without a name could perhaps be of some service. That is, if you are in fact, he…” Gwyn’s cheeks flared hot. Never had she sounded more a babbling brook of nonsense.

Her words settled like dust in a tomb.

Iona huffed when the man did not speak. “Perhaps he is deaf. Or deaf and dumb, de ye think?”

“Iona,” Gwyn hissed in mortification.

She might have said more, but the sudden screech of the heavy chair being kicked out from the table made her jump within her skin. The two women stared in shock at the offered chair as though it had moved on it’s own, which it had not. The nameless man’s long leg curled back into place, the only indication that he had kicked the chair.

“Flapping tongues can be cut out,” came a soft rasp. “Sit.”

Gwyn found herself obeying the command with shocking swiftness. Iona followed, though inelegantly so. She muttered about coarse men and dark holes in walls as she folded her stout frame into the un-proffered chair. Gwyn gave her a speaking look, an action she rarely employed, yet the strong-boned woman immediately quelled. She’d speak no more unless asked.

The man before Gwyn sat forward, coming out of the shadows. He rested one large fist upon the table and the crisp scent of wood smoke and pine forests came from him. He cannot be so horrible if he smells thusly. It was weak reasoning to be sure, but her heart needed something to believe in just now.

They studied one another, the man and she. He was surprisingly attractive, she thought with a start. Fine bones, a strong sweeping jaw, hard chin, long, straight nose that fit the frame of his face nicely. There was an unfortunate abundance of scruffy dark facial hair as though he hadn’t seen the sharp end of a razor in days. The brim of the hat hid his eyes, which prickled her, for she’d like to see them. A person’s eyes told their own story. False natures could not be hidden there, as they could by autumnal scents or beautiful lips. She experienced another sharp start of her heart. Beautiful lips? Aye, the thought had popped into her mind without warning. Yet the man’s lips… she peered at them then quickly away. Wide, and firm and well-shaped, were his lips. Made pale by the dark smudge of stubble around them, those lips curled up very slightly as though smiling, which he was not. If anything, he was frowning in irritation. She wondered if it vexed him to have lips that defied his ornery nature.

“Will you help me?” she said into the silent void. Her heart thudded against her breast but she could not turn back now.

“What do want?”

He hadn’t moved.

“I need to get to Erwin, the lands of the Duke of White. Time is of the essence.”

He made a noise as though time being of the essence was always so for chits like her and did not concern him. Gwyn fancied she had never seen a man so eloquent in silence.

“I am…” Her fingers dug into the damp wool at her lap. “Please. It means my life.”

“I don’t save people.” The soft rasping voice came out as though the act of speaking were foreign to him.

Desperation corseted Gwyn’s throat. “What do you do?” Why has Lucien sent me to you?

“I hunt them.”

She tried not to flinch, but there was really no hope for it. And he noticed. His chin lifted a fraction and the light hit his eyes, setting them to flash like black fire. Gwyn started at those eyes as though the action might hold him still for inspection. Oddly, it did. A strange fluttering took hold of her insides as she gazed into them, not entirely a safe feeling, but one of being stalked. Hunted.

His nostrils flared as though taking in her scent, solidifying the image of a creature poised to attack and she swallowed, her mouth dry. But his beautiful eyes stayed on her. Deep and piercing eyes of some unknown dark color. Dark brows were positioned at a pleasing distance above them, slashes that curved only at the outermost corners and looked to have that unique ability to from a menacing straight line if angered. She was waxing poetic again. Woolgathering, as Iona would say. She took a deep breath, thus assaulted by the fresh scent of him once more, and spoke.

“I’ll pay you. Gold.”

His eyes stayed on hers. “I don’t want gold.”

Her lips parted and those eyes followed. “I…” What could tempt him?

Her hand strayed to her neck, her cold fingers tangling with the chain at her throat. Her heart squeezed in pain at the thought that occurred to her. But, really, what good were objects when one was dead? Her hands went to the clasp at her nape, fumbling a bit before she got the necklace free.

“My lady, no!”

She cut a warning glance to Iona as the woman gasped. Iona bit her dry lip hard, but her grey eyes pleaded just the same. Do not do this! Gwyn shook her head a fraction. We always knew there would be a time when I’d part with it.

With a trembling hand, she set the blood heart upon the table. Even in the dank blue light, the stone glittered with crimson fire. It was the only thing she had of her mother’s, the stone necklace placed around her neck the moment after birth. And the one thing even Morana dared not take from her.

“You may have this as payment.” She tried to connect with his eyes again, but he’d retreated beneath his brim again. “That stone...” Her voice quavered and she leaned in. “It is more than it seems, good sir. It will protect you when nothing else will.”

“Then you should be the one wearing it.”

“It is all that I have.” Her voice broke over the din of the tavern for one clear moment, before falling back to softness. “And it’s magic cannot protect me from what hunts me.”

It was a gamble, telling him that much. But Gwyn found herself at the edge of her tether. Even more than her life, she did not want Morana to win. If she could only get to Erwin, enlist her people to stand tall for once in their lives…

A voice like tree bark cut into her desperate musings. “I’ve no need for a ruby.”

“It is not a ruby, but a diamond. The only one of it’s kind.”

More silence. Gwyn’s eyes prickled. She would not cry. She refused. “Please, there must be something.”

“Come away, Mistress,” said Iona gruffly when he simply stared. “This man won’t be helping you. I doubt if he could anyway.”

The nameless man tilted his head, considering Gwyn as though she were a mouse in the field, and he the lion. “Put down your hood.”

Gwyn balked.

“Are you mad,” hissed Iona, mirroring Gwyn’s thoughts. “And have her become target to this foul rabble?”

He kept his eyes on Gwyn. “She is with me for the moment. No on will come near.”

Gwyn’s pulse thudded at her throat but she found her hands moving upward. The air kissed cold against her cheeks as the deep-set hood lowered. Would he do it for her body? For the use of it? She quailed with a shake. Would she agree to such a thing?

Slowly, his large be-gloved hand moved over the rough-hewed table to swallow up the Blood Heart, and Gwyn’s heart leapt. Her joy turned to horror when he shoved the necklace toward Iona, who snatched it up readily.


“A lock of your hair,” he said softly. “Woven into the chain.”

When Gwyn gaped, he spoke again. “Your servant can do it.”

Her hair? Inky locks of it, undone by the rough journey, spilled over her shoulders. One curling strand trembled at her breast. A hazy feeling of dread pulled at her loins.

“Dark magic, that is,” said Iona. Her meaty fist struck the table. “A body can be enslaved that way, and he well knows it, I say.”

The man’s eyes glittered in the light as they held Gwyn’s.

She swallowed. “I’ve not a way to cut a lock.”

“Yes or no.”

Cold seeped into her bones and she shivered, might never stop. She’d been cold for a lifetime. Twenty years of imprisonment. Twenty years of cowering in fear. It ate at a person’s soul, chipped away pride and dreams. She slept in darkness, dreamt of nothing. Until threat of death gave her hope. There, in the picture of her own demise, was the seed of her salvation.

“All right.” She wished her voice were stronger. “But we must leave today and I cannot be seen on the main roads. Hiding is imparati—”

He moved like lightening, reaching out for her with such speed that she could not form the scream of horror that rose within. A knife flashed like a silver arch in the air, hurtling toward her. She could not even recoil. He was upon her. Her face tingled, her throat burning. A sharp pull at her head made her flinch. And then he was back in his seat, and her panting unsteadily. Iona ranted about, drawing curious looks, but Gwyn simply stared at the man now holding a long lock of raven-black hair. He smoothed it through his fingers, the blue light glinting over the length of it, before tossing the hair to Iona.

“Weave it in. We are going.” END

And, the influences… Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, was the fact that I didn’t realize I’d done it until it was done.

A. Strider lurking in the corner of the tavern in LOTR -This is the closest clip I could find. And, hey, it includes the infamous wearing o' the RING. Du, du, duahhh.. ahem. Anyway, embedding is disabled so here is a link.

B. The luscious Hugh Jackman as Van Helsing. Le rowl. No clip, just a nice picture. Van-Helsing-Hat.jpg

So how about the rest of you? Any influences lurking about in your work? Feel free to share a snip, pics or links.

Happy Friday!


  1. Hi Kristen,

    You're right. It is almost impossible to come up with something completely new.

    I shared an idea I had with someone. This person told me that what I thought was fresh and original, was similar to a scene in another book. I had never read the book mentioned or heard any discussions about it.

    I have a feeling that no matter what anyone writes, someone will be able to see characters from another story somewhere on the pages.

  2. Oooh Kristen, a new snip! Woo!
    Right, what was the topic at hand? Influences... Um, well, I won't deny that subtle moments from Tolkien probably colour my own work. Thank goodness I'm not writing fantasy - come to think of it, that's probably why; if I wrote fantasy I doubt I'd ever equal Tolkien's world building and probably just end up writing fan fic. I mean seriously, is there any other world worth writing about than Middle Earth? It's not even fantasy - it's our own world!
    But I digress. One specific item I remember is reading a book called, uh... The Doll in the Garden? The Secret of the Doll? Something like that. Too lazy to get up and look. Anyway, the main character was reading The Hobbit at breakfast in one scene and her mother called her up on it. I was 13-14 at the time, and had already been writing for years, but this was the first time I learned that you could reference your favourite books in your own book - and it was okay!
    Which is why Austin quotes Sam's Elephaunt poem from The Lord of The Rings in a crucial scene in The Face of A Lion. I needed a riddle and that's the best non-silly one I know.

    The two best silly ones are:

    What's brown and sounds like a bell? (this one's from Monty Python)


    England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales
    Monkeys, rats and wiggletails
    Spell that with only four letters

    (there was a knock knock joke in Looking for Alaska, by John Green, which I just finished this morning, that I didn't understand. Am I dense or what? The scene goes something like this:

    A: I have a great knock knock joke, want to hear it?
    B: Yea.
    A: Okay, you start.
    B: Okay, knock knock.
    A: Who's there?

    And B just looks at A blankly, and that's the joke. I don't get it...

  3. Hi Carol,

    Heck, I've read books myself that have my ideas written so similar that it is eerie. And annoying, as I certainly didn't steal it but feel like I have.

    Didn't Joseph Campbell say there are no new ideas/stories, only ways of telling them. Or maybe it was someone else. LOL. Can't remember now.

  4. Deniz,

    Nathan Bransford was doing a poll asking what fictional world you'd most want to visit. Middle Earth came in a close second to Hogwarts. :D

    Me? I'd go for Hogwarts and a nice Butter Beer. Love to know what that tastes like.

  5. Kristen, I LOVE this scene! Any idea when this book might be ready for reading? (hint, hint)


  6. Thanks, Rach.

    You know I am a hussy for readers. LOl. I think I'm about halfway there. Maybe we'll be able to trade. Hint, hint, hint... :-D

  7. Mmm butter beer... I want to read Snow too! *jumping up and down*