Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Voice and Influence
Yesterday a friend and I were talking about our writing. She made the comment that when she was working on her novel, she wouldn't let herself read because she didn't want to start sounding like someone else.
I was kind of surprised to hear that. I mean, I can't go for more than a few days without reading a book. And I tend to feel so personally about my characters that I can't imagine them taking on someone else's voice.
But I do remember reading Eragon and being really annoyed that he had the main character communicate with the dragon in his head. I had written a book with a girl main character who spoke to her dragon telepathically. And I wrote it long before Paolini's books hit the shelves. (Mine will remain on the shelf, too. It was one of THOSE kinds of books!)
Nathan Bransford pointed out yesterday that there are very few original ideas out there. Which basically means that as writers, we have to find unique ways to tell similar stories. As agents and editors would say, you need to have a compelling voice.
So here's my question. How much are we influenced by the stories we've already heard? And how much are we influenced by how they are told? If there's really nothing new under the sun, what can we do to make our stories stand out?
Okay, so that was actually three questions. Anybody have the answers?