Thursday, September 2, 2010

Powerful Influences – Does what you’re reading affect your writing?

For me, it absolutely does. Strong voices creep into my head and lodge there. I’m reading Daniel Woodrell’s Winter’s Bone and realized my own writing has taken a major detour from my usual path. His words and images are powerful. They stick with me. Phrases and descriptions swirl though my head; the problem is, they aren’t me. Neither am I channeling Mr. Woodrell particularly well—double whammy. Since this is such an interesting book, I’ll concentrate on reading and hold off on writing for a few days. I think the world will wait.

Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels had that affect too. I’d find snappy dialogue appearing on my screen, and my MC took on a cocky attitude I didn’t recognize.

After reading Pat Conroy, my descriptions get longer and more frequent. Unfortunately I don’t have Mr. Conroy’s gift for making them flow and drawing the reader in.

The influence of good writing is a positive one as long as I don’t get carried away. I learn from it. It gives me ideas on how better to show something or another way to approach a problem or create a smooth transition.

Poor writing teaches me a lot too. I try to analyze what bothers me and see if evil demons have injected something similar into my work. Sometimes they have. Ouch.

What I need is to absorb the lessons of other writers but somehow keep to my own voice. My writing may not rock the world, but at least I’m comfortable knowing it’s mine.

So, what influences you? Is it a strong voice? Whose? How does it affect your writing?


Polly said...

For a while, James Lee Burke influenced me. Then, when I reread what I wrote, I thought, WTF. The writing was so not me that I deleted most of what I'd written. When I write, I don't read as much. Lately, I've been writing a lot, so reading has taken a back seat. I guess I'm just commercial enough to be influenced more by a great story rather than great writing. If both come together, that's a winner.

Ellis Vidler said...

James Lee Burke can do fantastic things with words and images. He's another author I have to avoid when I'm writing. It's so easy to get sucked into it, and then you see what you've done. Delete, delete, delete--and sin no more!

VR Barkowski said...

I worship James Lee Burke, but my style is so spare, I've no chance of emulating him. Early on, I tried to write like Ruth Rendell, mundane scenes seeped in underlying tension. I got the mundane part right, LOL. These days, inspiration comes from writers who have a style & rhythm similar to my own. I also make note of unique verbs I run across. It's so easy to fall into a rut with verbs, but they can make all the difference. Clouds filled the sky is fine, but clouds blistered the sky is far more evocative.

Ellis Vidler said...

You're right about finding inspiration in similar writers. That's a good idea, keeping note of good words. I tend toward the rut myself. "Blistered" suggests heat to me. Good image from a single word.

E. B. Davis said...

I was having trouble with my ms. After reading Desolate Angel by Chaz McGee (Katy Munger), I changed one of my character's roles, which improved the script and enable me to evoke the correct tone. Her voice was so strong and yes, it influenced me. I'd never be able to emulate her voice, it was quite literary for a cross-genre novel, but it got me thinking. Like Polly, when I'm in the middle of a piece, I can't read much, but since I was stuck, it did a lot of good to read from the same cross-genre, especially when it was so well done.

Ellis Vidler said...

Sometimes I re-read books I loved. Just tuning in to the mood can help, but I do get ideas from what I read. Did any of you see Night Shift with Michael Keaton? He kept a tape recorder at all times to keep up with his ideas. I need to do that.

cttiger said...

I always try to read someone else's work before I start writing. Not for ideas, but to set a tone in my mind. Sometimes it's Dickens or Shakespeare, sometimes a current author.