Writing Under the Influence

By: Aryanne Ferguson

No, I’m not debating the +/- of writing and drinking, although that debate has probably raged on for a couple centuries. I’m talking about writing under the influence of other writers. Most writers discuss their influences: from Steinbeck, to Chekhov, to Dan Brown (Who are yours?). And as creators of art, writers are not alone in this tendency to learn from and admire those who have crafted before us. Musicians often name Michael Jackson or the Beatles as their inspiration. Architects can’t deny the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson, and Renzo Piano. And the careers of painters have been centered around entire movements of influencing each other – Impressionism, Cubism, Art Deco – the list goes on.

Bruno Mars is definitley influenced by Michael Jackson
We can all see the influence of Michael Jackson when we catch a Bruno Mars performance. (Source: rhapsodyincolor.tumblr.com)

So, Reader, let’s fully accept our influences and test our writing chops at the same time. How, you ask? By reading an author and writing a few pages in his/her style. Excuse me, but I’m no mimic, you say. This is a waste of my time. But think for a moment about your characters, about how different they are, about their varying voices, attitudes, opinions, and ways of expressing themselves. As a writer, I have the tendency to make my characters too similar because they all come from inside my head. They’ve been peer-pressured into acting a certain way, and despite me wanting their differences to shine, I can’t deny the effects of that peer pressure.

But writing in the style of different authors is an exercise that lets me sidestep the restrictions of my own style and develop both new voices and a better understanding of my own writing. So, Reader, do you think you’ll give it a shot?

Pick a good novel, drown yourself in it, and then come up for air and write as soon as you can in the style of the novel. I’m telling you – it’s worth it.

And of course, come back and let us know how it went in the comments.

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