It’s been said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal”, but I prefer Sturtevant’s point of view on the matter, “Remake, reuse, reassemble, recombine–that’s the way to go.” Often times, I have found I am influenced by the authors I am reading currently. I have never outright stolen the intellectual property of an author, but I have remade and reassembled other authors’ works because I find it to be stimulating to either purposely revisit works with a new twist or pull out one aspect of their writing and apply it to my own. Usually, however, I have found, I tend to do this without realizing it; my writing takes on the distinct style of a prolific author simply because I am reading one of his or her pieces. Over time, these little pieces of other authors’ voices can form a mosaic of voices that distills into my own voice.
I finally feel as though my own writing voice has crystallized into the cadence and sound I want it to, and though it changes depending on what type of writing I am doing, I am finally developing it into a distinct writing style: my own, and that is one of the most important things an author can have. A distinctive voice.
Without further ado, the list of eight authors and works of fiction that inspired me.
- Jeanette Winterson and The World and Other Places: When I first started taking myself seriously as a writer and developing my voice, I would say I was about fifteen. I had spent a good deal of time and effort into the blog I had at the time, and shamefully, I returned to it a few months ago, and upon rereading some of my words, I was mortified to see how precocious I sounded. It was a pretty embarrassing thing to realize that this blog is up on the Internet for all of the rest of forever (or for however long it takes Andrew at diaryland.com to take it down), and its writing is just so cringe-worthy. However, there are a few gems on there, and when I was tweaking my particular style during this time period, my friend Rachel was in the car with me one afternoon, and she handed me a book, saying, “Hey, your style reminds me a lot of this book. Read it sometime.” So, I read it and reread it, and that book was, you guessed it, The World and Other Places.
- Sandra Cisneros and The House on Mango Street: This slim book packs a powerful punch; the words are lyrical and playful, yet still talk of serious things, it is written from a young girl’s perspective but it is never demeaning. I read it for a high school Lit class, and I kept it because the writing in it felt so intimate. It was like reading someone’s diary, yet the words were somehow blossoming into beautiful, beautiful things the more I read it. I was so impressed that it altered my writing style. At times, after reading The House on Mango Street, I would intentionally write in Cisneros’ style, but now, it has gracefully infused itself into my works. I am amazed the skill authors have in creating strong visual worlds with very poetic words.
- Janet Fitch and White Oleander: I don’t remember how I discovered this novel; I honestly think it was just a random find at the bookstore, and while grazing through it like a hungry woman grazes through a bag of grapes without even realizing she’s gone through the whole bag, I devoured this book. The imagery, the poetics, the style. It all felt so effortless, though I know Fitch had to work hard on this book. It is beautiful and heart-wrenching, all the while, poetic. It forever altered how I wrote, plus, I received an email response from this author when I emailed her, which gives me even more respect for her.
- Neil Gaiman and American Gods: So far, everyone’s writing I have discussed is poetic, lyrical, and lush descriptively. Neil Gaiman is capable of something else entirely. When he writes, he creates very physical, concrete worlds; you close your eyes, and you can be immersed in the world Gaiman has created. At the risk of sounding like too much of a geek, I just sometimes allow his stories to bounce around in my brain, and I make movies of the novels he creates. The scope of his novels is just huge too; you can understand he does not create scenes merely, he creates world. He is amazing at simply creating visceral scenes that stick with you. While most of my writing is poetic, there is a side of me that is experimenting with making more concrete scenery or descriptions, and it is thanks to Gaiman and American Gods.
- Erin Morgenstern and The Night Circus: This book is absolutely sumptuous in details; Morgenstern wrote this as a debut novel, and oh my God, I can only aspire to write a first novel as detailed and gorgeous as this book. The scenes within this book spin to life in a way that I have never read before. Her talent is immense, the world she has created within her novel is magical and beautiful. It is because of this novel I want to improve upon my own writing, and I followed her blog briefly, and she is honest about the writing process, which I respect. I am just amazed by this book, and it has inspired me.
- Aya and her poetry: From the time I was about seventeen until I was in my early twenties, I was friends with this girl “Aya”, and we were competitive best friends in the best possible sense. We challenged each other to be better authors, we wrote together under stairwells, and we were both crazy about each other. We constantly thrived off outdoing the other, and the competitive nature of our writing challenged both of us to be better authors. She claimed I helped her develop her style, but her writing inspired my pen to write beautiful poetry I never knew I had in me. We both have changed over the years, and she no longer writes anywhere I can find, but there are times I go on FictionPress to reread her poetry because it astounds me with its metaphors and similes and plainly beautiful command of the English language. (https://www.fictionpress.com/u/438443/Hitsumei)
- Arthur Golden and Memoirs of a Geisha: I just recently purchased this book, and while I saw the movie when it came out in 2005, I never bothered to read the book, which is completely unlike me. However, I have been reading this book non-stop lately, and its writing is just astounding. The metaphors, the lyricism of it, the beauty has inspired me to rewrite some of my own stories and to change the style merely to mirror the beauty I have found within the pages of the book, even some of the most haunting, most controversial scenes, I have found written in a gifted manner. I am inspired by this every time I pick it up; it takes a classic Cinderella story, and it converts it into something brand new, both haunting and beautiful, and there is nothing that inspires me more than a hauntingly told beautiful story. I just am blown away by the skill this author employs (despite the controversy that surrounds this book).
- Jack Kerouac and On the Road: I have been reading the Beat authors since I was in the eleventh grade. An English teacher gave me a copy of On the Road and set me down this path, and by the time I finished On the Road and Memory Babe, a critical biography of Jack Kerouac, coming in at 767 pages and over two pounds, I was hooked. I couldn’t get enough of the Beat Generation; I was convinced I belonged in that world, and so I read everything I could get my hands on, but On the Road and a few other of Kerouac’s works altered my writing style in a way I couldn’t have predicted. The long, breathless sentences, the poetry in the words, I had never read anything like it, and it stole any scrap of sanity I had left in me at that point.
I have been writing for over twenty years now from that very first short story about gum drops to the book of poetry I have just finished to the novels I am in the progress of working on, and I have been inspired by so many. This list is just a few of the authors and the stories they have written that have inspired me. It is far from a complete list. I read everything from the back of cereal boxes to the newspaper, I am a fluid author, meaning that I don’t just let my style grow stagnant. I update constantly; I play around, and I still know how to have fun with my words.
I truly believe the moment writing is no longer fun for me, I will no longer be writing, but in the meantime, writing is my addiction, and I don’t want to quell the hunger inside of me to get the words out.