Writing like your Literary Heroes

superheroWho are your favourite authors? Which authors does your work mirror? Are they the same people? This is common, not just for new authors, but for long-established ones too. We feed off of, and are inspired by, those we like. There’s nothing wrong with this.

I remember James Ellroy once dedicated a novel to the likes of Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard, who taught him that he didn’t need to write like them, he needed to write like himself. It’s an important lesson new authors often need to learn. I think Ellroy’s continued to be inspired by those people, but does not take any steps to simply copy them.

The fact is, no one writes in a vacuum. Your work will be influenced by those you like or are inspired by. The trick is to steal what has gone on before, and repurpose it for your own ends, rather than merely copy it. Copying is a bland attempt at replication. Why bother? Those who wrote the work originally already did a perfectly good job of it. But by stealing – shamelessly – and mercilessly adapting it to your own purposes, you can create something wholly original.

This is a psychological thing as much as anything. Your work will grow organically when the “theft” of other styles happens without you noticing it.

So read other authors, and be inspired by them. Don’t shoehorn their style into yours, and you’ll let the influence happen without you even noticing. And your work will be much better as a result.