Following my break from all things academic this past summer, I am discovering that the various authors’ I have read recently have had subtle influences over my writing style in my latest stories.
Raymond Carver’s short and to the point sentences making the mundane interesting in Cathedral. In “The Lottery” Shirley Jackson portrays a dark and twisted community tradition in matter-of-fact light-heartedness. Even though this is a nonfiction example about fiction, Stephen King’s flowing narrative of On Writing is filled with brutally honest prose of carefully selected words laced with wit and self-deprecating humor. Cormac McCarthy’s jarring sentence structures in The Road shifted point-of-views blended with internal dialogue and swift variances in psychic distance to portray a bleak world. All incredible styles, each quite different, sharing the common thread of a little says a lot.
I developed my own unique fiction voice in the early 1990s as a college student, with the influences of Salinger and Hemingway resonating in my brain since high school. Some time after my professional career became focused on commercial creative work, I spent a long time away from fiction – I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know how long that was – only picking it up again in 2010 with the dark humor horror novel John Dies at the End by David Wong. I loved that book! I was excited again about writing creatively after years of corporate writing.
Interestingly, that abstinence from published fiction allowed (or forced) me to shape my writing style in a vacuum. Now that I have returned to short story writing on a weekly basis, I find that I draw inspiration from each author’s style and repurpose it in my own voice. My sentences vary in length and rhythm considerably more than they used to, combining fragments and run-ons as they illustrate the tone and atmosphere of a scene. My former tendency was artful and fluid all of the time, now those attributes are only reserved for times most appropriate.
In my own roundabout way, I have proven to myself the value of regularly reading other published works as a writer as each contributes another layer to my foundation. In past blog entries I’ve written about breaking the rules to develop style and finding my voice. My work has matured considerably over the past twelve months and continues to mold itself when I’m not looking. It’s a transformation I had not expected; one I fully embrace.