Going from the title, you might be fooled into thinking that I am going to regale you with a scholarly essay.
You’re in luck though…there’s a reason that I hated English A Level…
Actually, I just finished reading “Lies Sleeping” by Ben Aaronovitch.
It was one of my christmas presents and all the way through I enjoyed the experience. I always do. Mostly because it’s like Ben Aaronovitch seems to have read all the same books as me – I’m forever catching the literary version of what film buffs like to call Easter Eggs – and we appear to have the same sense of humour. Which probably explains all the Pratchett references…
However, this time round I finished the book and found myself thinking two things;
1) I wish I could write something that good.
2) I now see the reason that Sir Terry Pratchett and various other big authors have said “When you’re writing, you shouldn’t read in the genre you’re writing in.”
The first thought, is what I always think when I read one of my favourite authors. Doesn’t matter if it’s STP, King, Tolkien, Carriger, Howey, Eddings, Reichs, Slaughter… I always feel in awe of the story I’ve just read and the author whose imagination it came out of.
The second one requires a bit more explanation though.
Thinking about all the books I have read over the years, I’ve read a startling breadth of stories and authors. I started with Enid Blyton, Lewis Carroll and CS Lewis, passed through Tolkien, Eddings, Bradbury, Clarke, Herbert, Anthony, McCaffrey, Michener, Le Guin, Anthony… you get the idea.
I took in Stephen King, James Herbert, Dean Koontz and various other horror writers. I spent some time in Romance Land (yes, even Mills & Boon) and although I don’t remember any of the authors (other than the Grande Dame of that realm, Barbara Cartland) they all delighted me while I read them.
They’ve all had an effect on my writing, even if I don’t know it. I adore STP, but I can’t deliberately write Comedic Fantasy. I’ve been told that there’s a certain humour to my fantasy though, so something must have rubbed off on me.
The problem is, when you read exclusively in one genre, you don’t just pick up small touches of each author’s voice; you start sounding like them enough that it could be considered plagiarism. I had a brush with that when I was at Uni – I helped TOH with his written coursework for the course we were doing together, and I’d changed his personal “voice” enough that it sounded like he’d copied my work!
That time, he was accused of plagiarising me… and I really don’t want to have my work sound so much like my favourite authors that I get sued for plagiarism! Hence why I thought the second thought…
So what’s the fix? I have to read in my favourite genre to keep up with my favourite authors or any trends, but I don’t want to sound like them. Any ideas?
4 thoughts on “Reading and it’s effect on Writing.”
One of my favorite tricks is reading a questionable passage or bit of dialogue out loud to myself to see whether it sounds like me. If I were telling the story to someone, is that how I would tell it? Or is that how Ursula Le Guinn would tell it?
I read things aloud to myself or have the computer read them to me as part of the editing process, but I never thought of thinking about the voice like that…
Maybe read horror while reading fantasy, or historical fiction, until you finish source, then you are allowed to catch up… it may give you motivation to get a piece finished! Lol
That’s a thought… I decided long ago that I didn’t want to write historical fiction, but I do like reading it…
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