I remember reading a useful guide to life the universe and everything — at least as a 16 year old perceived the matter — with a great deal of attention paid to a central formative figure – some sportsman or another who was apparently a great roll model.
So now you know: if you need to shape your life, all you need is a rotund sportsman. I am not certain if a steep slope and being downhill from them is also required to do this.
But there is no doubt that role models do form a major part of almost all writers’ development. It’s particularly noticeable in the ones that editors and critics (particularly ones who need movie or TV references in proposals) proclaim as startlingly original (or perhaps I just read too much, and am a rather catty individual). All writing is de facto, derivative — like it or not (because that is how language and the human work). If you’re clever about this, you derive from many sources, and the remix can be startlingly original. Odds on that this will not be considered such… but that is just life. Most of us, however, do have our ideals as authors that we’d like to imitate.
I’ve been part of an authors discussion, recently, where various writers were holding up their role models as examples of how to write a first line. I’d like you to venture on this exercise…
All done? Good. Please volunteer them.
Now… ask yourself several hard questions.
1) Was this their first book, or were they a known quantity?
2) Are you a known quantity?
3)Are you addressing the book at the same market segment as they were? (for example are you writing YA and using Stephen King or Tim Powers as Role models. Or writing literary fiction and using RAH as a role model).
4)What do you want to do with your work? Appeal to editors? (i.e. It is no use writing like Terry Pratchett. Editors ignored him for 25 years.) Appeal to readers? – and what kind of readers?
In other words what I am saying is you need to tailor your choice of role model for a book to the type of book, your status as an author, and what you want to do with it.
Now – did your role model/s fit these criteria? And if so… how?
Mine (for the record) and depending on the book, range from Roger Zelazny , Terry Pratchett, DWJ, Tom Sharpe, RAH and Georgette Heyer – depending on where I was, what I was aiming at, and the type of book. And yes, I tried to learn from books that matched my circumstances.