Friday, January 14, 2011

Writing Osmosis


When I'm reading a book I really enjoy or admire, I find that my writing reflects the style of the author I just read.

Could this be related to this other factoid? When I hang out with someone with a southern accent, my very even-sounding, mid-Atlantic accent goes southward too. Who knows. Well.

After I read Suzanne Collins, my writing grew more spare and less fluffy.

After reading Wintergirls recently, I added more poetic bits and pieces to my emotional descriptions.

Whatsupwithat?

Does this happen to you guys too? What influences your style of writing?

62 comments:

The Blogger Formerly Known As said...

Oh, I’m just the same. Maybe there’s something of a chameleon in most of us?

Paul C said...

Enjoy the image. Through osmosis we pick up nutrients from what we read. I respect writers who can express complicated ideas as simply as possible.

salarsenッ said...

Absolutely. I believe all is relative in some way, no matter how near or far. That influence sneaks into my subconscious and sheds yet another layer from the writer I'm meant to be. The other writer's style is helping to find and hone my own.

Matthew Rush said...

There's nothing wrong with that. We are all the sum of our experiences anyway. Just make sure you don't let it be too obvious after revision.

Today's guest blogger is K.M. Walton!

Laura Pauling said...

This happens all the time! I have to really watch it. My daughter read Sherlock Holmes for like 2 weeks and her latest essay she passed in had words like partook and thence. :O

Tracy said...

Yeah, I think I do sometimes absorb a little of their flavor.

My biggest problem is reading stories written in different tenses. When I went back to do edits in my MS after reading Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles, I was horrified to discover I'd slipped into present tense for entire sections of my story without even realizing it.

B.E. Sanderson said...

It used to happen to me all the time, but I think the more I wrote, the better sense I got of my own voice. Now it only happens if the other writer's voice is super strong, or if I make the mistake of reading too much of one author all at once. (Like when I did a marathon read of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. He started to bleed into my writing because he was taking up a lot of space in my head.)

Jess said...

I've done that too. My current WIP has a Southern voice, so I deliberately stayed away from reading anything with a similar style--I didn't want to risk inadvertantly borrowing turns of phrase or nuances. In fact, when I'm in writing mode (MG or YA), I usually start reading adult books so that voice and plot lines don't influence my story.

Angela Felsted said...

I do this all the time! I guess if you stick with one style for one book, you're fine.

Magan said...

I think this is a crime for everyone! How many people can say they didn't start writing like Stephenie Meyer after the success of Twilight? (And if you don't you're just lying). And you should really just become a children's book author...really.

E.J. Wesley said...

I think my mood and the other bits of recent life I've been able to collect all reflect in my writing. Be it writing, music, movies, art, weather--pretty much anything that might've inspired me, it all ends up in the pot. At least I think that should be the case.

I've been thinking along a very similar line lately, and said in a recent blog post, "Artists are conduits. We take things in, amplify them in some way, and then spit them back out in our own fashion."

Meredith said...

Yep, I'm guilty, too! That's why I have to read only well-written books while I write :) And I tend to slip into a horrible British accent when I'm talking with a British person, which is just so embarrassing!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm a sparse writer, meaning not a lot of fluff. Probably comes from reading a lot of Preston & Child and Timothy Zahn books - their books lack fluff and move at a fast pace.

Carol Kilgore said...

Yes, both with accents and writing. I listen to my critique partners and when my writing starts going one way or another - not in a good way - I try to read something to offset that.

Bee said...

I hear myself in you.
Courtney Summers made me go the minimalism way. Jandy Nelson made me go all out on the sensory descriptions. Every influential book I read sees itself reflected in my writing.

I'm trying to change that, really.

Kelly said...

As long as you don't read Snooki's book next, you're okay!

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

Yes, this happens to me, too! I think that's why reading a lot is vital to good writing. And don't even get me started about my adopted twang. (This NYer needs to get out of the South!!)

Happy Weekend!

Erin Cole said...

An excellent observation, Lydia. Which is why I think it is so important to read what you like (for me it's John Hart and Joyce Carol Oates)and to also hang out with people you like.
Happy Friday.

Heather said...

I hear about this a lot but oddly it doesn't happen to me unless I read book after book by the same author with the same style, which I try not to do in a row. It is an interesting phenomenon!

Old Kitty said...

I think I get this as well!!! When I read the classics (Dickens, Hardy etc) my writing gets all 18th century!! But when I read Sue Townsend for instance, I try to get all humourous!! LOL!! How weird!! I'd like to think it's cos I'm a secret empath!! LOL! Take care
x

JEM said...

TOTALLY happens to me! I have to be careful what I read when I write, since I want the voice to be consistent. I like to read books that have a similar style to what I want the overall style of my writing to be, but I also have to be careful about a consistent voice throughout the entire thing. Sometimes if I read a book that really disrupts my voice, I'll write something else - a quick couple of pages or a chapter - to get it out of me so I can go back to the main WIP. I did the same thing with Suzanne Collins!

Stephanie said...

I like to think of reading good books spurring me to write better. And it's okay to try on other voices, but like Matthew said, don't show it to anyone important (i.e. an agent) until you've edited and refined and blended it in until it's become *your* writing and reads natural.

Taryn Tyler said...

Writing Under The Influence. I think its happened to me a lot less recently but it used to all the time. I think its a good thing as long as you are able to maintain some sort of voice or feeling that is only yours as well.

On a side note I've heard numerous people swear that when they read Frank Herbert's DUNE they re-wrote whole passages of it without realizing it hadn't come from their own brain. Creepy.

Catherine Denton said...

YES! I think we pick and choose things that we think can strengthen our writing based upon theirs. I don't want to be a copy-cat, but my writing grows after each great book.

Raquel Byrnes said...

That's good actually...as long as you read authors that write well. I think we learn a lot about writing from reading. I actually take notes on why a scene works...cropped sentences, word choice, pace? What made me like this?
Like your drawing, by the way.
Edge of Your Seat Romance

lbdiamond said...

Yup, I'd say that happens to me too...on the other hand, I still got my signature voice as well. Guess it all kind of blends together, eh?

lovedfromthestart said...

Definitely happens to me as well. I have a few friends with a very interesting voice... very metaphorical and dreamlike ambience to their writing. Sometimes after reading their writing, my blog posts tend to go way in that direction even though sometimes I consider myself to be more practical sounding.

Krispy said...

It doesn't really happen when I talk, though I do sponge up slang or phrases. Not so much accents, probably because I can't do accents?

But I'm totally like you with reading and writing! Not so much recently, but I do find that I start writing like whatever author I've been reading.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

We are all sponges of a sort, soaking in the facets of the world around us. I know my mood also affects my writing style. What does Victor Standish say, "Give an idiot a hammer and everything looks like a nail to him!"

As always a great post, Roland

The Golden Eagle said...

That happens to me, too. Writing, talking, I usually take something away from the influences around me.

Em said...

This happened to me when I was younger, but my own voice is very strong at this point. For good or ill. (ahem) I also don't read fiction when I'm writing fiction. I will read nonfic - usually research - and poetry.

Someone talks about this in a writing book, perhaps Natalie Goldberg in either Writing Down the Bones or Wild Mind?

Melissa Gill said...

I'm a total spounge. It effects my writing as well as my speech. Too funny.

Christopher said...

I get that particularly bad whenever I read Nabokov. My language starts getting all flowery and pretty which is not really my style.

Bethany Mattingly said...

Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog :) This infusion of writing style used to happen to me a lot but for some reason it's kind of stopped. *shrug* I am reading now more than ever so maybe my head doesn't have a chance to emulate the books I read.

Marisa Hopkins said...

Oh man, I WISH this were true of me! I read the best books ever and still manage to write like I did when I was in middle school (fyi, I was not a writing prodigy in middle school. Not. Even. Close).

But funny! My hubs is that way with accents.

Jamie Gibbs (Mithril Wisdom) said...

Yup, yup and yup. I'm too damn permeable with these kinds of things. I quickly develop a twang of particular accents when I speak to people, and my writing style starts to change depending on what I read. It can be a paint sometimes :P

Olga said...

I think it can influence your style of writing or speaking for a moment then individuality comes through.

Amanda the Aspiring said...

This definitely happens to me. Especially when I see a word that the author likes to use, to great effect. I start trying to find excuses to use that particular word. =)

Also, after watching things with British accents(Harry Potter, most of all), I speak in a really decent English accent for the next hour or so, until I realize what I'm doing and can no longer replicate their words with ease. It's such a let down.

Great post!

Holly Ruggiero said...

Yup. Me too.

Colene Murphy said...

Oh gosh!! I'm so glad you do that too! I'm so that guy...I try not to put a good day or so between writing and reading something I love. Can't be reading something awesome one night and the next morning go and write. Won't work. (also pick up accents too. I work for a family from South Africa and I have been asked more than a few times if I'm part of their family because I sounded a little SA on the phone...)

Melissa said...

I'm not so bad at this... when I'm in my character's head. It's always in "their" voice....which is mine too but mostly theirs. WHen I'm reading a school essay or something though and I just read something that inspired me... it definitely affects me.

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

I don't write, but I have noticed that I pick up accents from people I'm around. Perhaps we mimic those we are exposed to in order to fit in.

Anita Saxena said...

Yes! This happens to me all the time. The worst was when I read Harry Potter and I started writing, said character, instead of, character said.

Joanne Fritz said...

Yes, yes, yes. What they said.

I've always been influenced in my writing by whatever book I'm currently reading.

Oh, and the southern accent thing too. Within five minutes I'm saying "Y'all."

Nice to meet you Lydia. Thanks for stopping by my blog and thanks for the sidebar link. Extra points noted!

Rachna Chhabria said...

My writing is influenced by my mood more than anything else. But, reading does influence it in a subtle way.

Jai Joshi said...

It's natural for elements of a writing you admire to start to creep into your writing. As long as you don't lose your own voice you're ok.

Jai

Donea Lee said...

I KNOW I have done this before. I usually feel like I write better after I've just read something I really like. But, hmmm. Maybe the writing is better because I'm merely imitating the style I've just read (which was published, so obviously doing something right...)? Lately, I've been trying to just read, read, read all sorts of different books and styles in hopes that when I write, my brain will be so muddled with all that diverse writery goodness that whatever comes from me is authentically my own. We'll see...

Rachna Chhabria said...

Lydia...you have an award on my blog.

Alleged Author said...

How weird! After reading Wintergirls I wanted to add a bunch of flashback scenes. That's how you know someone write a great book: you want to emulate it!

Sarah said...

This totally happens to me. I'm getting better and better at keeping my voice consistent, but there are bits of other authors that love to creep in.

Sometimes someone else's accent will stay in my voice for months. Crazy! Also, I've learned I can't watch too much Daria all at once, because I get extremely sarcastic afterwards.

Carol Riggs said...

Oh YES indeed. That's why I generally don't read in the middle of writing a WIP. Except my current WIP has dragged on so long I've broken that "rule." LOL Plus perhaps, after 14+ novels, I'm finding my voice stays a little more consistent, in general.

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss lydia! for sure when i get readin stuff i like lots it gets in my head goes down my arm and some of that styles get right in my hand and in what im writing. but for sure i dont never get real far away from my lenny voice.
...hugs from lenny

DL Hammons said...

That's one reason why I don't read much when I'm writing my first draft. Too much bleeds across.

I also pick up accents really fast when I travel. :)

alexia said...

I agree with DL, I don't read as much, at least not works similiar to mine, when I'm writing my first draft. But I do make sure to note what I love about books I read and learn from each writer's strengths...

And yes, I start talking like those around me sometimes, too. Isn't that funny?

alexia said...

Oh, and there's an award for you on my blog.

The Red Angel said...

I think that as writers we are constantly studying different styles of writing and thus we tend to follow other people's examples. In doing so, we gradually mature as writers and take what we've learned from other styles to make our own as distinct and unique as possible.

I just think it's a natural habit for writers to do that. Too much is not good of course...if your writing reflects different styles too much, then you'll lose sight of your own style.

The semipermeable membrane drawing is genius.

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

Beth said...

Happens to me, too. I remember when I was a teenager, and I had just heard a production of Ibsen's A Doll's House. It made a huge impression on me, and I (completely unintentionally) wrote a story afterward that echoed the final act, door slamming and all!

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

Yep, it happens to me too.

But as long as our own voice isn't lost, we should be okay :)

Ciara said...

Absolutely, what I read has a direct impact on what I write. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one.

Naomi Ruth said...

Oh most definitely. I had one book I was working on where the character talked very similarly to a friend of mine. I hadn't seen this friend for a few weeks and I no longer could write the book. Very inconvenient.

I think because as writers we spend a lot of time studying people and (at least I do) mimicking people that we end up picking up on people's traits and accents in real life too, instead of just in our writing.

Melody said...

You're not the only one! I find I have to be careful what I read when I'm writing, otherwise my book will take a strange turn! :)

KatyDid said...

I’m bad about this.
I can get into the rhythm of a Kurt Vonnegut, Chuck Palahniuk, or Tom Robbins to the point where it becomes hard to snap out of it. In fact, those three writers are basically ruined for me now. I can’t read them for plot at all. All I can do with them is to grab one of their books from the shelf, open to a random page, fall into the cadence and start writing.

Fortunately, I suck at copying another writer’s style, so no one notices…

 
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