Sphere of fictional influence

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.


2 thoughts on “Sphere of fictional influence

  1. I remember when I wrote my first attempt at a novel and how I struggled for two years on it. However, when I finally moved on, I had never felt the surge of creativity that occurred. I wrote my second novel in four months.I do feel that so much learning, so much is happening and brewing in the writer that can't be counted like math practice questions, but more like a developing thunderstorm. It is interesting to discuss how what you are reading influences the writing. Some would say that the style and the content might get in the way of your writing and make it the same. I feel, however, that good writing and style inspires me to slow down, pay attention to word choice and style, appreciate when it works, and to sense when it isn't working at all. I have a list of writers that I read while I am writing – because if I take a chance at someone shoddy, it makes me frustrated and confused. And it is the kind of reading that slowly makes me realize that I want to write and not read at all. When that happens, I know I am doing something write… sorry, right. It sounds like you have been influenced by some of these writers, and I would be interested to see which elements of their style make your writing better. I would venture that they are all feeding different elements of your writing. I was reading "The Body" by King last month – it felt polished but still new to even King. However, his more current work, has a wisdom and a grace to his words. To me, there is more to this than just simply – good reading inspires good writing. I think it has to do with seeking out voices that will push you and persuade your creativity to move forward. I know it works for me, but I would like to know how that symbiotic relationship works passing creativity from writer to writer. Be well.


  2. Ron, I feel a challenge has been issued. Symbiosis of creativity is a good subject for an upcoming blog. King stated somewhere early on in On Writing that writing creates a communication that transcends time and space. In essence, he is influencing or communicating with someone tonight 1,000 miles away from his home from twenty years ago. I love that concept.You are right; each author influences different elements of my writing, some in very minute ways. And as I continue to read new authors the list of contributions increases a little bit. I hate to reveal it all publicly, though. I'll have to consider it.


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