Today on his blog, Nathan Bransford posed an interesting question:
"Who Have Been the Most Influential People in Your Writing Life?"
For me there is only one real answer. "I blame my little sister." (And yes, blame is the appropriate verb.)
When we were little, my sister demanded I play with her. (I know, outrageous). She is only two years younger, so it wasn't exactly hard to play at her level (or rather, pull her up to mine - because that was exactly what I demanded). First we played with what we called "peoples", plastic toys in the shape of people made for young children. My sister would play with one particular people , a girl, and I would give life to all of her family, giving them personalities and such. Then we grew out of peoples and moved on to Barbies. My sister would pick one Barbie to be her own and demand that I enliven the rest of them.
Many a Barbie saga was lived out in our bedroom. (Yes we shared a room). The bookshelf became an apartment complex. The bunkbeds were a mansion. The dresser was the school. We had a regular Barbie armada - though thanks to my brother not all the Barbies kept their limbs or heads. (And some were burned to death re-enacting the burning of Atlanta for his high school history project - but that's another story).
The first generation of Barbies would arise - getting married to our GI Joes (because Ken dolls just simply aren't good enough). We even created a clever system where the gender of children they had was determined by a coin toss. The first generationers then raised their children until they grew into the second generation of Barbies and the whole process started again. Barbies lived, worked, loved, had families, and even went to war in our bedroom. Of course, all the storylines revolved around my little sister's main character - who was usually fabulously wealthy or a lost princess.
When I was in middle school, Zenon came out. My sister loved Zenon. She watched it over and over again, and then she demanded we play a game of make-believe where she was Zenon and we were living on a space station. While she played and acted as Zenon, I had to be all the other students at the school, the teachers, parents, and any other character simultaneously.
I rose to the challenge but instead of creating the space station as represented in the movie - I created our own space station. In our space station - children from all the planets attended. I created a unique civilization (or so I thought) for each planet - where humans had secretly been living for centuries, watching Earth mature into something worthy of their attention.
From this my first attempt at a story was born "Jaij of Jupiter". Clearly, it was about a girl from Jupiter. I outlined an entire series that covered characters from each of the nine planets, all of it converging on a man named Justin - who had to overcome the painful loss of his beautiful young wife, admit to his family that he had secretly been the smartest man in the galaxy for sometime, and then prove to the Universe that our galaxy was finally ready to join their Universal Senate.
Really the story outline was a little ambitious for an eleven-year-old, and my writing could not handle it - back then I didn't write so well. In time other ideas came and my writing abilities developed. I wrote my first complete novel-ish story when I was in the seventh grade. (It was really awful but it was an accomplishment).
So you see - my writing is really my little sister's fault. She demanded I tax my imagination to create worlds and games for her. And I discovered that I loved doing it.
Really, she hosed herself over - because I started writing in earnest in the eighth grade. Writing took away the need to play with her to stretch my imagination - I could now play make believe by myself. I didn't need to play with my sister and didn't want to play by her rules. However, my little sister wasn't willing to give up easily - so I ended up playing Barbies and make-believe with her until she grew out of it.
Now she reads my stories, so I like to think we're all satisfied with the situation.
So really, my little sister was the most influential person in my writing life. She demanded I create worlds, and now I'm just doing my best to live by that command.