I don’t know just how many stories I had written by sixth grade, but I know for certain that this is when I created my first book, bound and with my own color illustrations. It was our major assignment for the semester in English. I’m sure I was thrilled about making my own book, though I can’t say for certain. I do remember it being a labor of love, something I was truly proud of after finishing. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who my teacher was.
I wonder if they still do anything like this at Pfeifer Elementary. Maybe today they’d make a digital version, instead using something like Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office. With so many schools moving to smart pads or iPads, it’s certainly a possibility. I don’t think it would be quite the same experience, but a cool project nonetheless.
As you can see from the cover of my book, The Flavor War, this is a showdown between the forces of good and evil. Well, maybe it’s not all that clear from the cover. Looking back I have a sneaking suspicion I’d been playing a lot of Mega Man at the time. Things I enjoyed–books, movies, games–tended to find their way into my writing when I was young. In fact, I stopped reading fantasy in high school and early college because I was afraid of plagiarizing books I read and enjoyed. Now I’m better at assimilating what I read and learning from it, instead of simply regurgitating the words into my novel(s). Here’s a great quote by Patrick Rothfuss (author of The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear) talking about how another writer’s words or style can find their way into your books. Just click to reveal or hide the quote.
Generally speaking, I don’t worry too much about ripping off other authors’ styles when I write. It’s a common fear of newer writers, and I spent a couple years anxious about it, just like everyone else.
But eventually I got over that particular fear for the simple reason that I never found any real evidence that it was happening. At least no more than is strictly necessary and/or polite.
There was one exception to this. Back in 1997 I read every Sherlock Homes story Doyle ever wrote in about five days.
On the sixth day, I wrote a chapter in my book. And what do you know? Kvothe turned into Sherlock Holmes. He was deducing shit all over the place. Bast fell into an odd Watson role, too.
It took me years to get all the Holmes out of that chapter. Many revisions.
The point is, I’d soaked up so much Holmes in those five days, that I couldn’t properly assimilate it. So when I tried to write, it spilled into my book.
After a couple of days my brain managed to digest all the Holmes and get itself back into its baseline state. But I’d learned my limit. A thousand pages of compelling, distinctive prose in a week’s time is bound to influence my writing for a day or two.
(This is part of the reason I haven’t tackled [George R.R.] Martin’s series yet.)
I suspect the same thing happened to me after reading about 150 pages of [Wil] Wheaton’s strangely compelling anecdotal bloginess.
I doubt very much it would have thrown a monkey wrench into my novel writing. But it sure as hell confused my blogging. What I wrote yesterday was probably some bastard hybridization of my style and his.
You can read the post in its entirety Here.
To read The Flavor War, click on the text below. I’ve added comments throughout, what I was thinking or feeling as I went back through the book, now twenty years later. I poke fun of myself quite a bit, which is only natural as the story is quite funny. My mother told me that, “I always loved this story, and it cracks me up even more now than it did then.” You can either mouse over the little, yellow sticky note icons to reveal each comment, or you can right-click on an icon and choose “Open Pop-Up Note”. I hope you enjoy the story.