There are two kinds of aspiring writers in our age— book-oriented ones who get much of their fiction through books, and TV-oriented writers who get much, most or all of their fiction through television and movies.
Since television and books are different art forms, you can guess that the more book-oriented a writer is the better he is able to produce good books of his own. But with television ever-present in American homes and beyond- with DVD players in vans so little tots don’t have to do without entertainment on the ride to the grocery store, and televisions even intruding into family restaurants— we can understand how some folks can be TV-oriented.
I was almost wholly TV-oriented myself. My mother wrote in my baby book that they sat me up in front of the TV to watch Captain Kangaroo at six months. They thought I was a TV-watching prodigy or something. And as I grew older the first fiction that really inspired me to make up stories of my own was the original Star Trek.
But I was lucky enough to be born into a book-loving home. Neither of my parents went to college— in their day it was rare for people of their lower-income background to have that chance. I always remember my father having a collection of ‘serious’ non-fiction books– about the lives of recent presidents and statesmen, about wars, a set of books by Winston Churchill. My mother had some popular novels like Gone With the Wind and The Silver Chalice, and some sets of mystery short stories.
When I was a baby my mother bought a 12 volume set of children’s books for me called ‘My Book House.’ The first volume had nursery rhymes from around the world. The second had simpler fairy tales, and the next had more complex ones. The last volume was advanced enough that it had chapters from ‘The Mill on the Floss’ in it. When I was about nine I decided that the numbers on the books indicated the age of child who was allowed to read it. So I didn’t read the last few books as often, since by then I was finding reading material on my own.
I got the idea to want to be a writer from reading ‘Little Women.’ I don’t know that I liked writing, or the character Jo from the book who wrote, all that much. I just was afraid if I cultivated my musical talent like Beth, I’d die young.
But, more so in these days, there are a lot of people who are keen on TV shows and want to tell TV inspired stories. That’s where the impulse to write TV-based fanfiction comes from. And there are a lot of fans of The Hunger Games and Harry Potter that experienced the movies first, and may or may not have read the book series. If you are from a TV-oriented family where no one owns books or reads them, it may not occur to you that the books can be deeper and richer than any movie could be.
The answer, if you are a TV-oriented aspiring writer, is to find books you like and read them. Novelizations of movies and TV shows count, at first. As a kid, when in about fourth grade I saw another kid reading the Star Trek book illustrating this blog post— Star Trek 3 by James Blish. I nagged my parents into buying me the other books in that series, and later used my allowance to buy others in that eventual 13 book series. Later, after the movie Star Trek 2 came out, original Star Trek novels started being published by Pocket books and I regularly bought them. I now have a nearly-full bookshelf of them— though some very recent Star Trek novels I bought were so very bad, riddled with political correctness, that I don’t think I need to be buying any more. Imagine a character in the middle of action worrying about which pronoun she should use when thinking about a gender-neutral alien species. People that dumb wouldn’t survive long in a hostile situation.
Of course an aspiring writer, even of genre fiction, will want to read a variety of books, including some that are rated ‘good literature.’ Don’t be afraid of trying books like that. Some of them are even better than Star Trek 3.