Writing under the influence

A post at terrible minds by Michael Moreci: Writing under the influence.

It’s the same balance of embracing your influences while maintaining your own voice. If you want to tell an epic fantasy but feel like it’s too much like Robert Jordan, remember that it’s you telling the story in your unique way. And the more you write, and the more your story takes shape, I’m confident that it’ll sounds less and less like Wheel of Time and more like your own thing. The same thing exists in Black Star Renegades. The Star Wars DNA is all over that book, but so is my DNA. There’s a lot of love for the galaxy far, far away in those pages, but there’s also a deconstruction of the messiah complex, and that dominant aspect of the book is all me. That’s my voice coming through, and it’s what makes that story what it is, and not just a Star Wars rip-off.

Best tidbit from this post:

Solomon said there’s nothing new under the sun, and in my opinion that’s true (to a degree—if you dropped Solomon into our world, I’m sure he’d say “Holy shit! Look at all these new things under the sun!”)

That made me chuckle.

Anyway, I agree. In fact, I’m probably more adamant about this than Michael Moreci, because he writes stuff for existing characters and I don’t. And the reason I don’t is because when I used to try (in my head) to write, for example, a Star Trek tie-in type of thing, it was hopeless. Completely hopeless.

Things I just cannot do: stay true to the voice of someone else’s characters.

So, yeah, I don’t worry about accidentally writing a Wheel of Time clone — or in my case, a Patricia McKillip clone — because I really don’t think it’s possible. No matter what I try to do, my own voice comes through. I think that’s basically true for everyone.

Or mostly. I really admire the authors who have pulled off the best Star Trek tie-ins.

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4 thoughts on “Writing under the influence”

  1. I think he overdoes it. It’s fairly easy to write knock-offs that are obviously derivative and are original only in failing to rise to the original. Clonans pop to mind. . .

    Working at filing off the serial numbers helps.

  2. Oh, you just reminded me of the famously terrible Tolkien knockoff. What was that? Not the Sword of Shannara, something even more blatant than that … oh, I think it was The Iron Tower trilogy by McKiernan. Here’s the review of that over at Black Gate.

    There you go, I guess it’s true that some people do indeed write a clone instead of an original book.

  3. When you think about it, even Tolkien was writing under the influence of all the Nordic myths he loved so well, filtered through his own experience and blended with his passion for language.

    I am REALLY easily influenced as a writer when it comes to voice–I have to be careful what I read when I am writing, because I start to unconsciously imitate certain authors’ voices. On the other hand, it makes fanfiction fun; for me half the joy is seeing how closely I can match Lloyd Alexander’s voice, or LM Montgomery, or Jane Austen, or CS Lewis (Lewis is the hardest for me).

    I strongly suspect my own writing voice, even for original works, is a combination of all my childhood reading. But I’ve never been even a little bit tempted to imitate someone else’s story (well, except the Narnia knock-off I started and quickly abandoned when I was eleven or so), because usually my brain takes a certain premise or notion and runs wayyyy in the other direction with it, complete with several rabbit trails. So: voice clone, yes; story, no.

  4. Louise, for a long time, I couldn’t read anything by CJ Cherryh when writing, because I would start to use exactly the kinds of emphasis within sentences and phrases that she does. Which would have been fine if that style fit what I was writing, but it didn’t.

    For some reason, no other author has ever been as contagious for me.

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