A. L. Buehrer What I Write and Why

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You Are What You Read

Some of the information in this post relates back to former posts, such as “How Not to Write Like A Girl…or a Guy.” You’ll notice when a person is asked to write a creative work, they’ll often fall back on what they know for inspiration. In other words, what they read.

  I’ll use myself as a case study because my case is rather interesting. First off, as an author of almost eight novels, it might be imagined that I like to read. Well, that isn’t necessarily the case. At least, I really haven’t been a big fan of novels. I read all the time, but I’ve always preferred science books. I spent this last summer reading Brian Greene’s Fabric of the Cosmos and The Elegant Universe. I like theoretical cosmology. (Actually, all cosmology is theoretical, but it sounds more impressive to give it an adjective.)

  I also recently enjoyed a rather hefty biography. I don’t read a lot of biographies, there aren’t a whole lot of historical figures that intrigue me that much, which is probably my problem, but I had a great time with Alan Walker’s Franz Liszt trilogy.

  When it comes to fiction, I read almost nothing but classics. Of course, all Christian fantasy authors read Tolkien and Lewis, it seems, and they probably will always rank as my favorite authors, but I try to vary what I read. I enjoyed in no particular order:

Bronte’s Wuthering Heights

H.G. Well’s The Invisible Man

Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins

All of which I would recommend, along with many others. But only you know what turns you on. It’s important to find writing this inspires you. Not all classics are the same. Know what fascinates you in the way of subject matter. I have preferences for out-of-the-ordinary elements in stories, adventure, survival, plots twists, fantasy, etc. These are the things that are likely to show up in your own stories.

  One thing I don’t recommend is imitating another author’s tone. For one thing, it never comes across the same with from a different writer’s pen, neither does it allow you, as your own person, to express yourself in your own voice. You have your own voice as an author, and if you spend your career trying to sound like somebody else, no one will ever get to experience the magic of your natural style. Don’t sell yourself short.

  Something else that is a danger particularly to new Christian authors is starting to sound like the last devotional they read. It’s awful when two characters are just talking along, and all of a sudden all their dialogue is practically copy-and-pasted from the latest Randy Alcorn release. It’s even worse when the narrator does this. Remember, these deep truths are so much more real when the action of the story tells them, not the characters or the disembodied author.

  So there are pros and cons to the fact that what you read has influence on what you write. One of the most effortless ways to improve your writing is to read good literature and observe what you like about it. As long as you don’t fall into the trap of losing your originality to it, what you read will inevitably build your writing skills.


  1. Ha, ha. Glad you enjoy the blog. You're still my only follower right now.