Sunday, May 23, 2010

Influences


We've just wrapped up a huge family reunion. Thirty-five family members were in town and it was up to my mom, my sister-in-laws and me to shelter, feed, and entertain them for two days. We had a great time. I'm tired.

We did a lot of talking and during one of the family chats my cousin's boyfriend asked me what author influences my writing most.

That should be an easy question to answer, right? But I just stood there, for an awkward amount of time, trying to think of someone. I couldn't.

There are hundreds of authors who I admire. I would love to be able to write quirky stories like Roald Dahl, or laugh out loud funny scenes like Shannon Hale, or gorgeous prose like Markus Zusak. But I don't think I write like any of them.

When I first started writing I tried to mimic the voices of authors I loved, but the results weren't good. I probably wasn't good enough at writing to make it work. My words felt like a lame attempt to write like people who could write. It wasn't until I finally decided not to try so hard, just to tell a story in a voice that came naturally, that writing became fun.

Even though I don't have that one author I'm trying to emulate I hope that all of the books I've read influence the way I write. I've read some really great books. I hope they rub off on my writing, at least a bit.

How about you? Do you have one author who influences your writing more than anyone else?


And I just want to say congratulations to the beautiful and talented Elana Johnson who announced her book deal on Friday! If you don't know her, you should. Her blog is a must read for writers. Plus, she's super cool, and possibly the friendliest blogger out there.

20 comments:

Diane said...

Yeah Elana!

I guess I don't have anyone either. I'm hoping it will be me that comes out. :O)

Julie Musil said...

I used to think the same way...write like my favorites. But they're great, and how could I possibly come close? I've learned just to embrace my own voice, and roll with it!

Now, put your feet up and relax!

Vonna said...

Like you, it would be impossible for me to pick just one. There's the authors I loved as a child, like Jack London and Walter Farley, whose writing shaped my ideas of what a great book should be and those whose stories I love now, such as Kenneth Oppel and Suzanne Collins, whose books are so different from those of my youth, yet are books I know I would have loved when I was a kid.

Sandy Shin said...

It's the same for me. There are certain authors whose writings I admire (Megan Whalen Turner and Diana Wynne Jones, for example) and aspire to write like. However, my writing is markedly different from theirs. There are certain aspects of my novel that are definitely influenced by them, but stylistically, though I tried to emulate them, it's difficult.

Sydnee said...

No clue! There are tons of authors who inspire me, but I don't really consider my writing to be like theirs because... well, because they're amazing and I'm not (yet). I think once you pull inspiration from enough sources, you can't really call one of them your sole 'influence'... all the colors mix together to the point that they look nothing alike.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I have no idea who has influenced me, to be honest. I think years ago, when I first started writing, whatever I was reading usually inspired the voice I tried to create. But I think, finally, after so many years, I've found my own. Thank heavens--because it was not easy! But I think emulation is a natural learning tool, in all things, including writing.

Jemi Fraser said...

I have a bazillion authors who influenced me to want to write - but I don't know if any of their styles have truly influenced mine. Good question... I'm going to have to think on this a little more. :)

paulgreci said...

I have many writers who inspire me, and probably influence me in ways that I'm not even aware. And I love reading in many genres so naming just one would be tough. I really connected with Edward Abbey's writing in my 20's before I was a fiction writer. And after I fell in love with YA lit. my reading world exploded. So many great writers!!

Stephanie Thornton said...

I'm so happy for Elana- I was grinning like an idiot when I read her post on Friday.

I don't have one writer who's influenced me, but a lot. Margaret George (Memoirs of Cleopatra), Arthur Golden (Memoirs of a Geisha), and Micheal Ondaatje (The English Patient) come to mind.

Jackee said...

I feel the same way as you--I'm influenced by no one author and yet a whole montage of authors and books I love. I suppose that's why I could never write a squel to Pride & Predjudice or anything like that. It wouldn't be an authentic voice, trying to sound like an author I love.

What an awesome reunion and I'll second Elana is the bomb!!

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Natalie, it's really good you are pondering this question, because when you are published and talking with kids, they will undoubtedly ask this over and over again. It's a question I really don't like because, like you, I hope that my writing is influenced by a multitude of writers, but I don't seek to emulate any one of them, so much as absorb great writing and then hope some of it somehow rubs off on me. So, your answer resonated with me. Yes, I have favorites, authors I'd love to meet in person and about whom I get really jazzed. But I don't like throwing out just one or two names because that wouldn't really an accurate response. It would tell the person asking something, but not as much as I'd like to tell them. So, to me, it's kind of a loaded question in some strange way, if that makes any sense.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I've heard musicians get asked and answer that question a lot. But as a writer, I have a problem with saying anyone is my influence. I love many and am inspired by them, but I'd be hard-pressed to say my voice is influenced by anyone but me (and my muse, whoever that is).

Thomas Taylor said...

I'll put my hand up and admit to being a great admirer of Philip Pullman. But even then, I wouldn't say that my writing is just like his (I wish!). It's too important to cultivate your own voice anyway, but questions like this are always harder to answer than the questioner imagines.

Jody Hedlund said...

Hi Natalie! How's your WIP!? I've been thinking about you! Wow. I'm amazed that you had so many people over the weekend. You are one brave woman to tackle that!

I think that over the years of reading, we are influenced by the writers we love. Ultimately I think we take away from each reading experience the things we love most and those things all help shape us.

Christina Lee said...

I would say Lisa mcMann and the Wake series- I lov her writing style nd she inspired me to play up mine. I was SO happy to hear about Elena!

Susan R. Mills said...

Great news about Elana! Anyway, I've been asked that same question and I don't have a specific author that influences my writing. I think in some way, each author I read has influenced me.

Margo Berendsen said...

I think that's a sign of a writer's maturity, actually, that they can't just pinpoint one single influence. There should be multiple influences. It also shows that you are well-read!

DL Hammons said...

I'd like to think that everything I've ever read (non-fiction included) have influenced the way I think and process the written word. The way I write is more a reflection of who I am, than who I read.

Mary Campbell said...

I think many authors influence me and every time I read a great book I want to write just like that author, but I'm with you on this. We need to write like us or we'll just sound like cheap copies of the real thing. When I realized I had my own style and voice - my writing felt more authentic.

Elana Johnson said...

Aw, thank you Natalie. You are so kind. *weeps a little*

And here's my answer to that question: *I* influence my writing the most. And YOU should be the one influencing your writing the most. We all want to be ourselves, and we don't really achieve that if we're trying to be someone else.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. *wink*