Whether we like it or not, the stories we consume help to shape us as people. And if you are a writer, they will also rub off on your writing. They can influence your genre, your style, your structure, your themes, even your grammatical choices.
Or it could be less subtle. You might just pick and choose aspects you like from different stories to use in your own writing. They say great writers steal. It turns out, so do bad ones and everyone else in between. All writers steal, even if they don’t want to admit it or even realise that they’re doing it.
So, as a reminder that nothing is original and that’s okay, here are some books that have influenced my writing over the years.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I read The Hunger Games when I was fifteen. At that point, it was the first present tense book I had read – or at least the first that registered in my mind. I was obsessed. The way present tense created so much immediacy and suspense blew me away. It felt like discovering a secret weapon.
I have since utilised present tense in various stories and novels drafts. Whilst it’s not my tense of choice for everything, for certain pieces of writing I find it invaluable.
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Carter’s subversive twist on Gothic fairy tales inspired me to try to write bravely. This collection made me realise the impact of writing about scary, strange and uneasy topics. Now, if I feel uncomfortable or even slightly afraid of writing a story idea, I know it’s going to be a good one.
As well as this, Carter’s exquisite style and immense control over language is something I will always strive towards.
Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith
This modern reworking of The Tale of Iphis from Ovid’s Metamorphoses took my breath away. Ali Smith blends myth with modernity to create a poetic, dynamic and empowering book that is both an earnestly moral tale and an uplifting love story. The themes of gender identity, sexuality and activism are now amongst my favourites to write about, and this book is a big reason why.
Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman
Where to begin with this rich, breathtaking and immersive novel? The world building, the characters, the story and the sheer escapism of this novel are fantasy writing at its best. This book sparked my desire to write fantasy and I stole the parallel world concept without a second thought. The joke’s on me though as it turns out world building is really hard.
The Gathering by Anne Enright
This book is the most recent addition to my list because at first I didn’t realise how much it had affected me. It was only earlier this year when I finished writing a particular short story about memory that it hit me. I definitely couldn’t have written that story without having studied Enright’s subjective, complex, tangential and wonderfully bumpy first person narration in The Gathering.
Drawing With Light by Julia Green
I won’t try to embellish the way this book influenced me. I loved the photography theme and so shamelessly stole it straight out of this fantastic young adult novel for my own (very different, very unwritten) YA novel.
Aside from my blatant theft, I’ll always remember when Julia Green visited my secondary school to do a talk on this book. Meeting writers and hearing about their processes and day to day routines makes the vocation feel more real, more accessible.
No matter what your creative endeavour, I’d highly recommend taking stock of your influences in this way. You might discover something unexpected!