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December 24, 2019

Since I originally wrote this article in 2014, it’s time I brought it up again, plus there have been some updates I want to add to it.
Since I read a book to a book and a half a week, I keep my eyes open for the best writers. While I’m always seeking new voices, I also like to stick with what I like. These writers become influences on my own writing. Whether minor or major, they reflect what I’m doing in some way. As I’ve said over and over again, the best stories out there are the ones where the writing doesn’t get in the way of the story. It’s not just the story that counts. That’s total bull. While that lame excuse works for some hot button topics (which I won’t name), when it gets down to it, for the long run, the authors that endure do it the right way from the onset.
There’s a big difference between influences and inspiration. Inspiration is coming up with ideas, where influences are people that you model your writing after, in some big or small way. 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 in 2014!
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 or USB sticks) 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, even decades after they stopped recording.
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.
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?
Some writers get accused of copying their influences. There can be a fine line between an influence, a clone and borderline plagiarism. 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, R. Karl Largent, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Bentley Little, Franklin W. Dixon, Carolyn Keene, Jack DuBrul, F. Paul Wilson, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Lee Child, David Baldacci, 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.
I may or may not write in their genre. However, something about their writing caught me, inspired me, and helped me along the way. I wouldn’t be here today if not for them.
How about you?
Happy writing!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 27, 2019 5:04 pm

    You’re absolutely right, Fred. Unless someone outright steals (as Coldplay did to Joe Satriani in Viva la Vida, one of my favorite songs ever) I think musicians and writers ought to chill out. There are infinite combinations of both words and notes but they can get awfully close to the bone. I love your influencers and was especially touched to see Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene among them. Relic, by Lincoln and Child scared the piss out of me.
    I read Spooner by Pete Dexter, laughed myself silly and wished I could write half as well. Same goes for Elmore Leonard and Toni Morrison.

  2. December 28, 2019 3:13 am


    Thanks for the kind comments. Yup, influences and NOT plagiarism. Big differences. Everyone has their own voice.

    Loved Relic!


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