NOTE: This is a little off-cycle. I normally post on Tuesday of each week but I got tied up and yesterday, Wednesday was as well. So… Happy Thanksgiving!
There’s a big difference between influences and inspiration. Inspiration is coming up with ideas, where influences is people that you model your writing after. I’ve talked about both but not so specifically about influences. If I have, I don’t apologize because most of you probably weren’t reading this blog the last time I did talk about it!
THEY’RE HARD TO IGNORE
Since I’m a failed musician and music lover, I’ve read a lot about certain bands and musicians, lately in the metal world, that refuse to listen to either the radio or other records (well CDs now) because they don’t want other music to “pollute” their muse. They’re afraid of someone thinking they’re copping licks or ideas from another band or musician. They want their sound to be purely their own. Bull. Total bull.
Richie Blackmore, former lead guitarist for Deep Purple once said that despite being considered one of the top guitarists of the era and a supposed trend setter, he wasn’t afraid to admit that even he copped licks off other musicians. Then there’s Jimmy Page and his whole band Led Zeppelin who’ve been sued numerous times, and continue to get sued for flagrantly copping licks from others.
It’s almost impossible for a musician to lock themselves up in a cave and come up with un-influenced music.
The same for a writer.
TIME TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND EMBRACE
It’s time to stop being silly and pretentious and accept the fact that you didn’t grow up in a vacuum. You gained your chops somewhere. To be a writer, it stands to reason you probably started as a reader, right? If that’s the case, you’ve read something, somewhere that inspired you to take up writing on your own. Maybe you loved an author or authors so much you wanted to emulate them in your own way. On the other hand, maybe you felt you could do better than any schmuck out there. That’s still an influence. You doing better than anyone else means all those “crappy” writers influenced you to do them one better.
Why not acknowledge these people?
ACKNOWLEDGE DON’T COPY
Some writers get accused of copying their influences. There can be a fine line between an influence, a clone and borderline plagiarism. The fact is that it just doesn’t happen in legitimate publishing. No publisher worth their salt is going to let an author write a clone of another author. That manuscript would never get that far. That might not be the case with self-publishing, where there are no controls like that, but it’s still not likely.
There’s nothing wrong with emulating a genre or general style of your favorite author, but the best thing, which I believe is what we all do, is make it our own. We don’t want to ghost write another author’s story… well not unless we’re asked. We want to be acknowledged as our own self. Just because we love an author doesn’t mean we want to be them.
I make no secrets about my influences. The following authors all inspired me in overt to subtle ways and include: Carol Davis Luce, Rhondi Vilott Salsitz, Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Lester Dent (Kenneth Robeson), Dean Koontz, Andre Norton, Ron Goulart, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Bentley Little, Franklin W. Dixon, Carolyn Keene, Jack DuBrul, F. Paul Wilson, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, R. Karl Largent plus a few others I’m probably forgetting at the moment.
Every one of these people played a part in the development of my style, yet my particular brand of wordsmithing is all my own. It’s none of those authors, all of them, and all Fred Rayworth.
How about you?