Domain of Ownership

Are there any literary or artistic works that almost feel like they are a part of you?

I don’t know where this quote originally came from; I jotted it down in some class notes from my college days:

In your own writing, make allusions to works or artists that feel like they are a part of you. Works are more powerful when rich in your personal culture.

I remember the professor telling us we could “own” other people’s works. Our emotional response to them would make for a unique voice in our creative writing.

Who are some artists or authors—or what are some works—that are a part of your personal culture? And are they classical enough to write about or will today’s teens totally miss the point?

Originally, I had characters in my first novel alluding to The Scarlet Letter and Emily Dickinson poems. In fact, I built the whole first chapter around a poem. Then I learned that my main character hates reading and cut all literary allusions.

In a book I’m working on now, I referred to Indian legends about my hometown. Then I changed the setting, and those parts got axed too. I guess I have yet to make my works “rich” with my “personal culture.”

However, maybe personal culture extends beyond the humanities. Why did I feel driven to write about a character who spent time in a Japanese internment camp when I’m a sheltered, white, Utah girl? Because my great-grandparents had a Japanese internment camp barrack brought to their farm after the war, stuffed to this day with old, rusty junk. That building and what it stands for haunts me even now. I hope the image of that barrack haunts the pages of my novel, too, even though I have no Japanese heritage.

What allusions have popped up in your writing that have added depth?



Filed under Writing Tip

8 responses to “Domain of Ownership

  1. Julie Hughes

    The Brothers Karamazov plays a role in my current book. It’s my favorite.

    • Kim Reid

      Okay, I need to move that to the top of the to-be-read pile. Shameful how long it takes me to get to the classics!

  2. Ingrid Michaelson once said in an interview that she felt she lost ownership of her songs the minute they were recorded. She didn’t feel sad about it though because of the listener responses she got. She thought it was beautiful that so many people took her songs and made them their own. I think that’s beautiful.

    • Kim Reid

      SERIOUSLY? I make soundtracks to the books I’m writing to get the creative juices rolling. There are like three Ingrid Michaelson songs on all my soundtracks. So I’m glad she’s okay with my stealing her songs. Beautiful indeed.

  3. Valynne

    I’m guessing you decided to write about a Japanese girl because I’ve had such a profound influence in your life.

    I grew up reading Agatha Christie and Encyclopedia Brown. I think those books were part of me when I wrote my first book.

  4. Fascinating! I’ve been meaning to do a post on this exact subject for a while but you said it better than I would have. I think it would be impossible to separate me from the books that have changed my life. It’s like I’m this large ball of ooze that absorbs things from books and then deposits them in random places as I move along. In fact, often I don’t even realize that something from a book has made it into my story. In my WIP, I just discovered a reference to Gaskell’s “North and South” and another one to Nancy Turner’s “These is My Words.” Those are both adult books and teens would probably never catch it but those books have become such a part of me that they influence the way I write.