My super awesome friend Charlie (who also has a blog you should totally check out), made a comment yesterday that made me think about how what we read might affect what we write. I think, in general, readers and writers are versatile. They like all different kinds of genres and authors and stories. But, it seems like we tend to really love certain authors or books or styles. I've gone through phases.
In elmentary school I was in love with The Boxcar Children series. I loved mysteries and kids who played outside.
During middle school I read mostly boy survival books like The Hatchet. Or really anything written by Gary Paulsen or Will Hobbs. I also seriously adored Harry Potter.
In high school I became uber churchy and read a lot of LDS fiction (which I would barf if I read now becuase holy bad writing, batman!) by people like Jack Weyland and whatever the local library had . I also read a lot of classics during high school (assigned and otherwise) which may have balanced out the quality my literary experience in my teen years. That was when I learned to love (oddly enough) Ray Bradbury. I enjoyed Jane Austen mostly because it seemed a lot like LDS fiction--there are a lot of parallels between Mormon cutlure and the Regency Period as described by Austen.
Also somewhere in high school I discovered Joan Bauer who writes the kind of books that even now I'd love to write. The only word I can think of to describe her books is: simple. And that doesn't even really do it, because it's not really like they're simple. But they sort of have the feel of A Long Way From Chicago (another good book). I was so in love with Joan Bauer's books that I wrote her an email asking her how she became a writer and how does she do it. She even wrote me an email back! I have to admit that was probably one of the most encouraging things that happened in my career as a writer.
Even as I got more into reading "The Classics" during college, I still never could get away from young adult. Actually, I probably read more of them in college than any other time. I actually met the authors of the books I've become copycat to lately while taking classes at BYU. Carol Lynch Williams and Ann Dee Ellis.
What can I say? I love their books and their writing styles. Personally, I think that my current WIP has a little bit of both these writers in them. So, does that make me a copycat?
I don't think so. And here are a few reasons why:
1. I started writing bits of my story before I'd ever read a book by Ann Dee Ellis. I took some secitons to a writing group and they said, "hey! This is a lot like this book which I happen to be carrying in my backpack and you should borrow it and read it." That book was Everything is Fine. The next semester I took a creative writing class from Ann Dee herself, and we became friends. But I had my style before I knew about her--so how is that copycat?
2. Part of why I feel like I'm a "copycat" to these ladies is because they both write books with heavy issues like physical abuse, death, sexual abuse, etc. Those stories for some reason or none speak to me, and for some reason or none I happen to come up with those same kinds of stories and characters--so I write them.
3. I took classes from both authors, so I learned a lot of their techniques and their preferences. I limit myself on adverbs and adjectives--that just makes for clean, simple, and good writing; it doesn't mean I'm a copycat, it just means that I can apply the good things that I learn.
4. Every author has their own unique style, voice, rythm, and sentence construction. If you asked fifteen people to tell the exact same story, you would get fifteen different stories. This is why we have several movies about spiderman or batman. Also, this is why we have genres. If the second person to write a story with aliens and space ships never wrote their story out of fear of being a copycat, then we probably wouldn't have Star Wars or Star Trek or a number of scifi stories. I like to think that my story would fit into a genre and maybe a sub-category with stories like Glimpse, This is What I Did, Speak, and even Perfect.
So, am I a copycat? Maybe. Or maybe I'm just an original writer who happens to draw upon my experiencew which may or may not be shared with others already...