Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Those Influencers

Writers on Facebook have recently been posting lists of the 15 authors who most influenced them.

Frankly, I think their number is too few. We're influenced by everything we read. We absorb all these influences, accepting some, rejecting others, until they coalesce into our peculiar style.

Robert Louis Stevenson suggests, "When you read a book or passage that pleases you, sit down at once and try to ape that quality which most pleases you."

No, Herkimer, that doesn't mean you should write like the writers you admire. I can write a pastiche of Hemingway. But I'm not Hemingway. You pick up bits and pieces of technique from other writers, then you make them yours.

Okay. You want to know who I'd put on my list of fifteen. I'm sure there were many more, but here's my list (in no particular order):

1.Edgar Allen Poe
2.Jack London
3.Emily Bronte
4.John Fowles
5.Washington Irving
6.Somerset Maugham
7.John Cheever
8.John Steinbeck
9.John Dickson Carr
10.Arthur Conan Doyle
11.Ernest Hemingway
12.Robert Louis Stevenson
13.Vladimir Nabokov
14.Ruth Rendell

15.Elmore Leonard


  1. Made me think about a P.D. James, quote, "Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious." (smile)

    Several on your list are also on mine.

  2. You have a point, John. Everything we read influences us in one way or anther. I think the object of the exercise is to pick the ones who you remember the most influencing you. I don't think I could list fifteen. I could list fifteen writers I LIKE, but not that many who had a very big influence on me.

    1. You're right, Jan. It's much easier to list writers you like than those who may have influenced your writing. And saying to what degree is even more difficult. Thanks for commenting.