On different occasions I have read stories written by school children and have always been amazed by the blatant plagiarism I find there. Storylines are lifted, characters are uncannily similar to those from well-known books and the writing is unashamedly modeled along the style used by well-know writers.
This is not something that is exclusive to school children trying their hand at writing; this is something that most of us have gone through. We read a book and fall violently in love with the style, the characters, the storytelling. And that’s when we declare, ‘I want to write a book exactly like XYZ!’ We are often foolish enough to do it too. And the story that emerges is a washed out thing, a pale and lifeless imitation of the style and the author we have admired so much. It is a poor thing, this story, an orphan at birth, unable to name its real parent.
This is because we have cut it off from the roots, have isolated it among a throng of strangers. What this story needs is an identity it can be proud of, a voice that can be heard over the chatter of other books and a style that is fiercely individual.
And in order to do that, we must learn to move out of the shadow of our favourite authors and their writing styles. Instead, what if we used these authors as inspiration? What if we read all their books but allowed our own writing to develop a life and will of its own, instead of constantly steering it in directions it most vehemently does not want to go? The story that emerges is sure to be bold and true, announcing its arrival in a voice that is not afraid of being heard. It may have flaws, it is sure to be weak in certain sections and almost certainly it could have been written better. But it will be your own story, and all its faults will be faults that you can proudly claim, just as you can accept all its strengths.
And once you learn just how to do that, it’s not long before other authors will be heard saying, ‘I wish I could write like ABC!’