I know I’ve posted on this topic before, and I always thought I knew exactly where I stood on the issue, but I find myself kind of moving to the other side a little bit now.
The argument: should a writer read in the area they’re working in? For example, should a novelist read novels while trying to write one? Many writers say NO. I’ve always heard that this is because they don’t want their voice to be influenced, but maybe there’s more to the story. Maybe they don’t want to unconsciously steal plot points or character elements.
This is where I’m stuck right now. Traveling Girl, like Gypsy, is a fantasy novel. There are some supernatural elements. And I am not a person who reads those kinds of books. I just never got into them at all, not even the vampire stuff. I loved Buffy, and adore sci-fi films, but to read the stuff? Unless it’s something by this guy, I’m Just Not Interested.
I think I like to watch that sci-fi and fantasy because envisioning the complex worlds created is just too much work for my lazy brain. Film does all the envisioning for for me.
For pleasure, I like to read novels about women pretty much like me. Of a certain age. Dealing with some kind of mid-life transformation. Boring and a bit self-involved, I know. I like to read memoirs, too, and biographies, especially biographies of writers. Again, a little insular. But my book group gets me to read heavier stuff outside my normal scope like Three Cups of Tea.
Now that I’m writing my third fantasy story (I’m including Octoberland, the novella that sparked the wriitng of Gypsy.) I’m starting to wonder if I should be reading in the genre. I can’t decide. In some ways, I think it keeps me honest and fresh if I don’t. I’m not ripping anybody off. But shouldn’t I know what’s out there? The other thing I can’t decide about is whether to watch any sci-fi stuff or if that will also dilute my own fantasy-world vision.
It might not be my thing to read it, but it is really fun to just make all this stuff up. I can’t decide if it would be better to know that everything I’m writing A. has been done before B. is completely original or C. a little of both.
For now, the only sci-fi show I’m watching on television is Lost. And that’s so different from what I’m writing, I feel safe tuning in. However, I remain slightly superstitious about putting the first season of Heroes , which just from the summary sounds A LOT like my books, into my Netflix queue.