“Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another.” ~ Voltaire
Oh, Tuesday. You fickle beast. You start like a Monday hangover--all noise, bright lights and regrets. Then, somewhere between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, you start to feel like Wednesday. If there's a groove in the week, it has to be from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon. Everything else feels like climbing up or sliding down in my book, which is to say a struggle.
Speaking of books, I've been doing some stewing on the relationship between reading and writing. We all know there's one. At the most basic level, if you can't read, you can't write. Pretty simple really. But what about at a deeper level? To what extent do our reading habits influence our writing habits?
You Are What You Read
You've probably heard the expression, "You are what you eat." This clearly isn't true, or I might have looked something like this guy after college:
Mom - "You are still writing, aren't you?"
Me - "YES! I'm just trying to think of how to describe it. It's actually a series of long short stories--like novellas. They involve a guy who becomes a monster hunter, or paranormal investigator. Each story is about a different investigation."
Mom - "Is it horror? Like Stephen King? You know my favorite movie of his was Silver Bullet."
NOTE: My mother is a HUGE horror film fan and loves movies based off of Stephen King stories. She also knows that I've read his books since I was a kid.
Me - "Well, he didn't actually make the movie himself, but they based it off of his novella, Cycle of the Werewolf--"
Mom - "You know why I like that movie so much? Because it seemed so real! You almost forget that it's about something crazy like a werewolf. I was just worried about the little boy in the wheelchair and scared of the creepy priest."
Me - "That's because King is a master character author. You worry so much about the characters and their relationships with one another that you almost forget that you're reading a horror story. Until some possessed dog eats someone, that is."
Mom - "So your stories are like that?"
Me - "I guess they are a little bit like that. They've got some fun paranormal and scary stuff going on, but they're mostly about this guy trying to find his place in the world. Those are the kinds of stories I've always enjoyed reading."
The thing is, I've always believed you should write what you like to read. If you're passionate about YA, horror or historical romance as a reader, that passion will surely seep into your writing. However, I'm not sure I ever really made the connection beyond the very broad strokes of genre or categories. It goes so much deeper than that.
In hindsight, I can easily see the little bits of my favorite authors in my writing. King's flawed and conflicted main characters. JK's strong female roles and iron-tight friendships. Shakespeare's exploration of human emotion. On and on it goes ...
"Easy reading is damn hard writing." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne
Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not claiming to have successfully cloned the techniques of the legends I'm referring to in my own writing. When I do that I'll give you a ride on my private jet and let you take the yacht for a spin. :-) It's just that I can see how I've tried to emulate them, and done so almost subconsciously.
So I ask: Have you noticed your favorite reads sneaking into your work? Do you purposefully try to emulate a style or author? Do you write stories similar to those you read the most?