by Monifa Anderson, Age 15, United Kingdom
Artwork by Katie King
It was a cold November evening, and I was in my bedroom, many-layered and thickly-socked. I decided to read some Charles Bukowski poems. Bukowski wrote about life’s hardships and challenges. He frequently tossed in amazingly accurate observations of the human condition.
Anyway, it was NaNoWriMo, which meant I had deadlines, so straight after reading I worked on my novel and found myself compelled to provide deep, meaningful, philosophical insight into each and every one of my characters.
The reason for this hit me like an epiphany. What was this sudden twist in writing style all about? Influence Influenza, that’s what.
An ailment whereby whatever a writer is reading at the moment temporarily seeps into the style of their work.
Don’t tell me I’m the only one who has experienced this. Think over your time as a writer. I’m certain you will discover that at some point, you have had the Flu.
As writers, we are constantly searching for sources of inspiration, even when we don’t know we’re doing it. We soak it all up like sponges and use it as food for our imaginations. And–warning, hard truth up ahead–although we’d like to think we’re not young and naïve, deep down we know we don’t have it all figured out. Stories help explain some of the things we can’t completely figure out ourselves. And so, naturally, we allow ourselves to be influenced. We succumb to the Flu.
The (Surprisingly Beneficial) Side Effects
- Influence Influenza can actually help us find our voices as writers. We all have our own quirks in our writing styles, sure, but few us are lucky enough to have a style that is all our own and we are totally confident in.
- I, for one, am all for experimentation. It keeps the journey interesting; it stops me from taking the safe and boring road.
The Not-So-Good Side Effects (in a descending list of severity)
- Influence Influenza results in inconsistency. Some of your scenes could end up being ten times more descriptive than others, which is great, if that works in your favour. If not, it can lead to confusion, frustration, and in extreme cases of the Flu, tearing your hair out.
- When writing in first person, you don’t particularly want the voice of your viewpoint character changing halfway through the novel.
- You could decide to throw in a gigantic plot twist that your newly influenced self thinks is a good idea, but then regret it later on when the entire mood of the book shifts.
Treatment: Make the Flu work for you
- Don’t let Influence Influenza beat you. Make it work in your favour. If you read a funny book, and are determined to fit that hilarity in somewhere in your own story, choose a scene where comedy is appropriate.
- Keep perspective. Don’t go into painstaking detail on that one guy in the coffee shop who only shows up in one scene for five seconds to take your character’s order.
- Master the hardest lesson: discipline. Always keep the big picture in mind, the overall style of what you want to create. Remember what your characters’ personalities are and what you want to show in each scene/chapter.
Good luck with tackling the Flu, my friends. It may not be contagious, but it is highly catchable.
Monifa Anderson is a 15 year old writer from London. She is currently trying to master the Influence Influenza.