Fingerprints, or Writers Who Have Influenced Me

The other day, I had a powerful urge to re-read Mary Stewart’s The Ivy Tree. It’s been years and years since I read it — years and years since I read a Mary Stewart romantic suspense novel all the way through, in fact. My copy is decades old — the price on the cover is $0.75, the glue holding it together is dying, so the amber-yellow pages are loose, and they’re crumbling at the edges. I’m afraid to handle the thing, so I bought a new copy.

I’m about halfway through and one thing I’m noticing is how much I owe the flow of my own descriptive writing to Stewart. Her fingerprints are all over my writing. I’m surprised by that, somehow; I guess I didn’t realize until this week how influential she’s been.

This isn’t the first time I’ve read a beloved author and thought, “Oh, that’s where I get that from…” A few years ago, I opened Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven, read the prologue and realized that I’d absorbed her prose rhythms.

What I’ve done — absorbed ways of handling language — is different than plagiarism. Plagiarism is taking someone else’s work — their words and ideas — and using them as if they’re you’re own. The words I use, the ideas about plot and character and setting, are my own. It’s just that I’ve absorbed ways of managing those words to express those ideas from writers who’ve come before me.

And I have to say, I think I picked pretty good role models.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. micheleberger
    Oct 24, 2009 @ 23:21:13

    Hi,
    I really liked this post. Over the years, we absorb writers that we love and they influence us in all sorts of anticipated and unanticipated ways.
    Best,
    Michele Tracy Berger

    Reply

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