How You Write - Influenced by What You Read?

It’s snowing outside. You’ll know that if you’ve looked out of a window recently, or seen the wall-to-wall coverage of SNOWMAGEDDON II – This Time It’s a Week Earlier Than in 2010. And there’s nothing better on a cold evening than curling up on the couch with a small black and white cat that just won’t leave me alone good book.
So, rather than launching into a lecture on why Tom Albrighton’s sold out by admitting he’ll use the phrase “Much, much more” without hesitation, I’d like to share three of the books that have influenced my writing style.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Noel Adams

I may have mentioned it before, but I’m a tiny bit of a massive, huge, ginormous Hitchhiker’s Guide fan. I’ve got a huge leather-bound anthology of the first 5 books, I like Eoin Colfer’s effort and I can sit through the movie without stabbing myself in the thigh with a fork.

Just.

And indirectly, Douglas Adams is the reason that I’m a copywriter. The first thing I did when we had the internet was search for the Hitchhiker’s Guide. I found h2g2 – a collaborative encyclopedia founded by Adams. Through writing for h2g2, I learnt that I wasn’t a bad writer. Then the community helped me become a good writer. And then I started to write for a living.

(NOTE: h2g2 is now apparently being sold by the BBC. This isn’t good news)

Candide – Voltaire

There’s nothing I like more than writing a blog post with a sarcastic or tongue in cheek undercurrent. It might be the frustrated satirist in me, or it could just be the fact that I’m as sarcastic as they come, but I love it. And Voltaire is the master of the craft. “All’s for the best, in the best of all possible worlds!” cries our eponymous hero, as he nearly drowns, or an earthquake wrecks Lisbon, or as his worldly wealth is washed away. If Voltaire’s tongue had been any further into his cheek, he’d have dislocated something. And it’s this talent for satire that’s influenced the way I write blog posts.

Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut

A colleague recommended I read some Vonnegut just after I’d started out as a junior copywriter. And Slaughterhouse 5 changed the way I think about writing. It took me from writing long, dull sentences to short, concise ones. Admittedly, the fact that Vonnegut has a unique style and structure does have a downside. After reading one of his novels, it takes my own style a few days to reassert itself. But if it wasn’t for KV, my copy wouldn’t be half as good. So it goes.

So that’s three of the books that have influenced me. Obviously I’ve missed things like the Sharpe series (a how to on recycling the same themes over and over) and The Hobbit (an example on why you shouldn’t fall in to the trap of big, showy follow-ups), but it I’ve gone on long enough.

So what about you? What books have influenced your writing style? Which authors prompted you to pick up a pen? Do you think Bernard Cornwell can write books that don’t feature the line “Sharpe kicked him in the crotch and hit him with his massive sword.”? I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with, so share your books in the comments section below.

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