Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Writers Who Haven't Influenced Me


I love when writers talk about their influences. I find it endlessly fascinating and have done it myself. Some of my major influences would be Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John D. MacDonald, and Louis L’Amour.

But it occurred to me, twisted soul that I am, that authors almost never talk about writers who had no influence on them, despite the fact that they'd read one or more of that writer’s works. So, let me give you a list of my top non-influences.

1. William Faulkner – I’ve read a couple of Faulkner’s books and some of his short stories. I like the stories better, and believe Faulkner was a pretty good writer. But his style of telling stories, and his characters, just aren’t for me. And they are so different from my style and characters that I just can’t see how I could ever be influenced by him. Perhaps that’s to my detriment. But I just can’t see a Faulkner Effect anywhere in my writing.

2. Raymond Carver – I’ve read one collection of Carver’s stories and didn’t like any of them. People tell me he’s a good writer. OK. But I want characters who act, for good or ill, and Carver’s characters don’t act. They talk. I also find his characters unbelievable. I've never met any real life people like them, for example. Perhaps to my detriment again, I would strive very hard to not write like Carver.

3. Franz Kafka - I read The Metamorphosis and found it profoundly silly. I believe the basic themes have been done much better by other, and in a much more believable fashion. I can see nothing of Kafka in my work.

4. Hunter S. Thompson – Now here's a writer whose work I actually like. I’ve read several of his books and various of his essays. I’ve enjoyed them, but that style of “gonzo” journalism is as far beyond me as differential equations. Nothing from Thompson has spilled onto me. Except maybe some booze.

5. Tom Clancy – here’s another writer I like fairly well, but his subject matter and way of expressing himself on the page are very different from mine and I don’t see any sign of Clancy graftings in my own work.

6. There are other writers who I’ve enjoyed who I think have had little if any influence on my own work. Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, John Grisham, Richard Laymon are among them. All are fine writers, and I’ve very much enjoyed Asimov and Clarke, but it’s their stories that resonate with me, not their style and approach to writing.

How about you? Who weren’t you influenced by? And it doesn't have to be writers. Heff could tell us who didn't influence his drinking. Or Lana could tell us who didn't influence her art. The possibilities are endless.
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53 comments:

Scott said...

Charles,

One writer whose work I admire but doesn't influence ny work is H.P. Lovecraft. The breaking point between he and I is that most of his characters are victims, whereas I think my characters would fight to the bitter end, instead of going crazy or whatever.

Nice pic, too, Charles...you've got the whole Molly Hatchet/Spaghetti western thing down!

Travis Erwin said...

I'll ponder this and do a post next e. Of course I'll give you credit for the inspiration.

Mimi Lenox said...

I adore Pat Conroy's stories of southern families but I doubt he "influenced" me. I can relate to so much of the subject matter and the psychological influences in his work via family and growing up in the south.

A definite NON influence for me would be Stephen King! Do ya think?

Lana Gramlich said...

...but if you've striven NOT to write like Carver (& perhaps others,) is that not also an influence on your writing?

pattinase (abbott) said...

What a funny, cool idea. Hemingway didn't influence me--I know that.

Lisa said...

What a great concept! There are quite a few writers I admire and who have a style that's completely different from mine, but I wonder (based on Lana's question) whether that is the sole basis for judging whether or not they've influenced me. I don't think they have, but maybe they have in some subliminal way that isn't reflected in my own work and that I'm not even aware of. I wouldn't mind one bit if my work was influenced by Marcel Proust, Annie Dillard, Vladimir Nabokov or Saul Bellow, but I'm not nearly smart enough for even a little of what I admire about their work to rub off, I'm afraid.

Miles McClagan said...

Anyone who played sport writing an autobiography

Any comedian who ever wrote a novel - except the one Eric Morcambe wrote where at the end the comedian is impaled on his own award

Nicole Richie

I have no writing influences...I wish I did!

ivan said...

Oh how often have I tried to imitate the internal monologue of The Sound and the Fury in my own novels, and be told by a critic I should just narrate and not go into any fancy stream-of-consciouness;a ruggeed realism will do.
But it is so attractive, almost addictive, right from the madman Joyce, through Faulkner, through Joyce Carol Oates.
On the other hand, I have heard many a prof say that anybody who has rad Finnegan's Wake all the way through--is a liar. :)

ivan said...

I like Carver.

Something about his early amateurishness that is attractive. ...Looking for an errant friend as a theme.

the walking man said...

ha ha hahaha hah aha Lana. You're to much!

Chris Eldin said...

Great post!
I love Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terebithea), and I've probably read all of her books. Her books tug at the emotions and make you spill a few tears. It's not my style at all, but I admire her deeply --she has an interesting personal history as well.

Georgie B said...

Very good question.

I've read all kinds of writers during my time on this planet, and what I try at least to a certain degree, is not copy their particular writing style.

I may try to take the basic ideas and concepts that they used in writing their stories, but for the most part, none has influenced me to the point of wanting to write like them.

Probably the only writer I truly like would be Edward Rutherford. He puts out such killer historical fiction that you are literally dropped into the storyline.

David Cranmer said...

Charles, What a refreshing idea for a post. My picks would be James Joyce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Willa Cather, William Faulkner, and Hunter S. Thompson.

Charles Gramlich said...

Scott, I think Lovecraft did influence my writing, especially my early horror stuff. I see it in the first horror story I ever sold, called "Still Life With Skulls." But I'd agree that he hasn't influenced my fantsy stuff.
Molly Hatchet is cool.

Travis Erwin, cool! Looking forward to whatever you post.

Mimi, I don't think King has been much of an influence on me either, although it's hard to be sure. I've read so much of his stuff.

Lana, trust you to be the stubborn one. I said I "would" strive. I read Carver so late in my life that I never developed any habits like his. You make a good point though. Maybe Faulkner influenced me in that counter-influenced way.

Patti, Hemingway has influenced me, though not terribly much.

Lisa, yes, I think influences can be very subtle. If you've read and admired them then they might well have influenced a word here, a sentence there. It's probably a very difficult thing to trace.

Miles, I hadn't thought of comedians. I've read a fair amount of stuff by comedians but since I have no sense of humor I would imagine they've had no influence on me at all.

Ivan, certain folks are attracted to Faulkner's complexity of prose. I'm more attracted to simplicity of prose. I don't know if it's all from experience, or if there is some kind of subtle biology at work.



Mark, yes, isn't she. And I get to live with her.

Chris Eldin, it's interesting that we can like and admire something without striving at all to do that ourselves.

Georgie B., I have many writers that I really love and I think my style is probably a combination of many of those influences. I tend to be pretty passionate about writing and either Love or Hate certain writer's styles.

David Cranmer, I'd include Joyce in my list too. And probably any of the famous Russian writers.

moonrat said...

I agree with your entire list except Faulkner, who is, ironically, my strongest influence--not really in terms of writing style, but in terms of inspiration for narrative format. Faulkner's core narratives always revolve around the idea of storytelling and how the truth changes depending on perspective, and I love the metafictive aspects of his stories because they are something I believe in. (His writing can be a little obtuse... let's come out and say it.)

Thanks for the list!

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Charles, great question. There are so many influences I think we subliminate it makes it a very tough question. Ironically, I was going thru some 80's writing of mine just this morning - painful, yes, and instructive - and I did see influences. Will have to think deep about who didn't ... especially those who didn't influence my style yet whom I love.

Don

cs harris said...

Interesting question. When I find a writer whose work I admire, I try to figure out what they do well and if I can in some measure adapt it. I think Lana's right--even writers whose works we DON'T like influence us. But if I had to pick one well-known writer who I'd say hasn't influenced me, it would be Dickens. Talk about long-winded! And waaay too contrived and "cute". (apologies to any Dickens fans reading this)

Charles Gramlich said...

Moonrat. Admitting it is the first step. ;) I do think Faulkner was a good writer but as a southerner I'm actually probably harder on Southern writers than most people. I've just never been sure, for me, that Faulkner was worth the effort. But clearly he has been for you.

Don, it is a tough question, and one we're not accustomed to thinking about. But I found it informative to try to figure it out.

Candy, Dickens is a good one, although I have actually liked a few of his short stories.

SzélsőFa said...

What a topic, you are twisted Charles :)))
Well, hm...

SQT said...

I love this post! How better to analyze how we write than to look at what we don't do?

I love picturesque writing but I'm terrible at it myself. Juliette Marillier is a great fantasy writer, and I love her, but I don't pull any technique from her.

Heinlein? Nope.

I also love Tom Wolfe but I couldn't write like him to save my life.

BernardL said...

We agree right down the line, especially Faulkner and Kafka. I would only add Thomas Hardy to the list of writers I have read (Jude the Obscure and Far From The Madding Crowd for two) but would no more have his style filter into my writing than I would slash my wrists. Slashing my wrists was what I felt like doing after reading Jude the Obscure. :)

steve said...

I was thinking of Tom Wolfe, too. I admire his style, but don't think he's influenced me. I'd add Tolkien, but I suspect some of his concepts, rather than his writing style, have influenced me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Szelsofa, I'm honored that you think so. :)

SQT, Heinlein may have had a little tithe of influence on my writing back in the day, especially stuff like Starship troopers, but it would be a minor thing.

Bernardl, I imagine I'd put Thomas Hardy exactly where you do if I'd read him, but so far I've been able to escape the "honor." Just a few spare glances into his tomes have nearly caused me seizures.

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve, I do think Tolkien has influenced me, but as you say, more for concepts than style.

Avery DeBow said...

Of writers I like, I think Stephen King would have to win the prize for not influencing me. I love his writing style, but I've seen so many poor attempts to emulate it that I've crossed him off my inspiration list for good.

Although I've grown to appreciate Jane Austin's work on a higher-than-enjoyment level, she can claim zero influence on me as a writer (not that she would want to).

laughingwolf said...

like travis, i'd have to ponder on it... off the top, can't think of anyone....

Tom Evans said...

I totally agree about Kafka - lame. I also totally agree about Hunter Thompson and Asimov, both magnificent in their own way, but somehow not an influence on me.

I do find Asimov as a character inspiring, mind you, but his writing doesn't affect me now. It might've done, when I was younger, and used to write sci-fi...

Interesting observations.

Miladysa said...

The ones I was *forced* to read:

John Steinbeck
William Golding


Great post!

J. L. Krueger said...

Hmm, I try very hard not to be influenced by writers I otherwise admire, but it is quite probable that they influence me in ways I don't recognize.

David Eddings refuses to read fantasy out of fear that he'll pick up other writer's style in his own work. Me, I love fantasy too much to refuse to read other works. If there are stylistic aspects I acquire along the way, oh well.

In the end all I care about is that my readers cry when I want them to cry, laugh when I want them to laugh and feel a deep connection with the characters.

Erik Donald France said...

Strange slant but interesting.

Funny, I know all too many people right out of Carver -- a lot of talk, and no action. Short Cuts is a good film version of a lot his stuff interwoven.

I loathe Steven Spielberg's vision, but have no idea if he influences me in the negative or not. Phone home!

Cool musings . . .

Greg Schwartz said...

that's an interesting question... never really thought about it before. O. Henry would be one -- I like his characters and twist endings, but he seems to stretch an awful lot to get to them sometimes. and Stuart Woods would be another. I enjoy his books immensely, but i can't see myself writing with his style at all.

benjibopper said...

so far Hunter S. has had no influence on me either, other than make me want to give his approach a try. but i'm too chicken.

another one of mine: margaret atwood.

Charles Gramlich said...

Avery, I've enjoyed quite a bit of King's stuff, but some things about his writing I don't like much. I'd guess he's been a bit of an influence on me just because he's so pervasive, but not a strong influence.

I think I agree. I don't see any Jane Austen in your work. ;)

laughingwolf, take your time, of course.

Tom Evans, yeah, I think Kafka was right in not wanting that published himself. I wonder if Asimov might have influenced my younger self. I liked many of his stories but never was a big fan of his style. But yes, a very dedicated guy, he was.

Miladysa, I totally rejected Steinbeck at first too, being forced to read him. Later as an adult, reading some of his shorter works like Cannery Row, I came to admire him. I think he probably has slightly influenced me. Golding was a big influence though. I loved "Lord of the Flies," and that was one of the few books I had to read that I enjoyed.

J. L. Krueger, I think we are all unconsciously influenced. When I wrote stories as a kid of 12 or 13 I imitated other writers intentionally. By the time I was writing in college my style had become my own, but with lots and lots of influence from writers I liked. I disagree with Eddings completely. I think he's completely missing the boat, which may explain why I don't find his work compelling.

Erik, I think the Carver characters are intensly "urban," if that makes any sense, and I grew up in the country so they seem totally alien to me.

Greg Schwartz, I'd probably have to give O Henry some credit for influencing me, but mainly through his influence on other writers since I don't believe I ever read anything by Henry until I was already an adult. I haven't read Stuart Woods.

benjibopper, My wife really dislikes Atwood's writing. I can take it or leave it but would certainly say she's had no influence on me.

Lauren said...

Interesting post. There are definitely many writers who I have read that have had zero influence on me despite the fact that I love their work. There are too many to enumerate.

Heff said...

I've always thought you look a lot like Danny Joe Brown.

Off topic, but you and The Beast shop at the same consignment stores don't you, lol !

writtenwyrdd said...

Who wasn't I influenced by? Jeez, I haven't the faintest. I feel like even the bad ones have influenced me to NOT emulate them, lol. I figure that the deliberate shape of their absence in my writing is also a form of style choice!

Steve Malley said...

What a neat topic!

Let's see, writers I just bloody *love* but their voice is pretty damn different from mine:

HP Lovecraft and JK Rowlings; Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein; Carl Hiassen, Dennis Lehane and George Pelicanos; jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins; Ben Elton, Helen Fielding and Marian Keyes; Cormac McCarthy, Terry Pratchett and Salman Rushdie.

Now I'm starting to wonder if I have any influences left... :-)

JR's Thumbprints said...

Tom Clancy is definitely one writer that has had zero influence on me. Same with Hunter S. Thompson.

Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" though, is definitely believable and fascinating. I'm certainly influenced here.

As for Faulkner, whenever I think of him, I think of all those appositives

Cloudia said...

Thanks for this interesting look into your development as a writer. aloha

Mary Witzl said...

Faulkner certainly never influenced me -- those great long sentences without a period in sight drive me wild! Virginia Woolf too -- I think she was a great writer, but I hope to hell I haven't taken in her world view. Let's see: Norman Mailer, Daphne du Maurier, Umberto Eco -- those would be a few I could never hope to emulate -- or maybe 'would never'.

But Kafka's Metamorphosis -- I loved that! Of course, I did read it when I was 16. And a lot of things have changed since then...

Charles Gramlich said...

Lauren, it's often pretty tough to tease out which ones have been an ifluence and which ones not.

Heff, I don't shop. I pillage.

writtenwyrdd, oh definitely, some of the bad stuff I read as a kid did negatively influence me. I think it happens less now that I'm grown.

Steve Malley, cormac McCarthy is good one. I don't think he's influenced me because I found him so late, but had I read him when I was forming my style I think he could have an influence.

JR, some day I'd like to sit down and have a few beers and pick your brain to find out what I'm missing about Kafka.

Cloudia, no problem.

Mary Witzl, Umberto Eco is another good one. I like his stuff. Or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I like their work but don't think they had any influence on me. I read the Metamorphosis when I was in my 20s and found it very hard to get through. It was bascially a chore I set for myself. I didn't enjoy a thing about it. I'm glad some folks get stuff out of it though.

Merisi said...

I would never consider reading Franz Kafka in any language but the original German. I have tried the one or other English version, but found the translations stilted, the delicious and often very humorous ambiguousness of his lines lost, at times even given wrong meanings, in short, very frustrated reading. Kafka resists translating, in my opinion. I am not surprised you didn't appreciate him. A pity, though.

Merisi said...

I like Carver. His short stories "Call me when you need me" and "Cathedral" have stayed with me. Did they characters "act"? I don't quite understand what you mean, but they did make me reflect and understand.

Charles Gramlich said...

Merisi, I know that Kafka actually didn't want his works translated into English, so maybe he was aware of what your saying. I haven't read it in the German so I couldn't say for sure.

What I mean about Carver is that I always get the feeling that his characters are observing but hardly taking part in the life around them. A couple of his stories have stayed with me because I disliked them so much. I don't remember the titles but I remember a couple who go to visit another couple and are freaked out by a peacock. And there's the guy on the train who is thinking about visiting his son but just continues to sit and think until he talks himself out of it. He's just not my kind of writer, though I'm sure plenty of epople enjoy his work.

Barbara Martin said...

I like to read the odd literary author, but I certainly don't write in any of their styles. For instance, James Michener.

jennifer said...

I am currently reading Gregory Maguire's "A Lion Among Men" and have read ALL of his books. But his writing would NEVER influence me in any way.

The same with Ann Rivers Siddons. I love that her books are set mostly in the South but would never right as she does. But I enjoy her enough to read every single thing that she has written.

Charles Gramlich said...

Barbara Martin, Michener is a good example for me as well. I've enjoyed some of his stuff but it's way away from my kind of writing.

Jennifer, I've enjoyed Siddons as well. She was marketed as horror for a while, although she really doesn't write in that genre. Somewhat southern gothic, I guess.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

Love the picture! Very old west! I like the idea of who hasn't influenced you -- Faulkner didn't do much for me either -- I kind of grew up in that world and far preferred Tennessee Williams version of it. As for Carver, you might try his poetry which I LOVE a lot more thann his short stories. They are totally heartfelt, completely accessible. It's his best self, I think, and not as stilted as some of the short stories can seem.

jennifer said...

Geezly crow I said right instead of write! Did you wince too?

:)

ARCHAVIST said...

That's a cool concept - writers who haven't influenced me - I think I'll do something similar soon.

Charles Gramlich said...

Michelle, I will have a look at Carver's poetry one of these days. I know a lot of folks who do like his stories. Some things just don't work for us, though.

Jennifer, I winced, but only a little bit. lol.

Archavist, the idea seemed kind of interesting to me.

sage said...

I read Kafka's Metamorphosis in high school and, like you, thought it silly. I picked up a collection of his writings and sayings in college and killed a bottle of port, reading it till 3 AM.

As for influence: Wendell Berry, Edward Abbey, Bill Bryson, Annie Dillard....

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, I should check out more of Kafka's stuff. I'll bet Kafka wouldn't have considered the Metamorphosis his personal favorite among his work.