How do you not let the books you read effect the books you write?
Most writers are thieves, in that when inspired by good writing, they translate those ideas into their own work. Yet it’s crucial to stay true to your own voice and vision and not copy character or plot. Borrow technique instead.
For example, I was reading a YA novel and noticed that the author often began her chapters with dialogue. “How dare you say that to me?” Jane asked, is a better opening than: Jane had no idea he was going to cut her down. She’d just opened her heart to him and bla bla bla . . . the dialogue starts the chapter in the heart of the action. So, while writing Starseed, I started a chapter with: “What’s going on here?” Nan asked, her lower lip trembling. My protagonist is Kaila, who is half-human and half-extraterrestrial and had her alien friends over. The aliens had never experienced a party, music or earth food, so things get out of control. When the conservative grandmother comes into the living room in the morning to see the house a wreck and finds the sleeping aliens, I opened the chapter with “What’s going on here?” That’s better than: Kaila opened her eyes to see her grandmother staring at the sleeping aliens in her living room, bla, bla, bla. So that’s a technique I borrowed from reading, but stayed true to my own story.
Before I actually do the writing, I read books in the ballpark of what I plan to write. You want to ensure that your idea is fresh and not been done before. Heroes with supernatural powers involved in a love triangle, the girl who thinks she isn’t pretty but obviously is—these ideas have been done to death. So when planning Starseed, I read Jennifer Armentrout’s Obsidian, Stephenie Meyer’s The Host, and Melinda Metz’s Roswell. Though these are YA sci-fi books dealing with aliens, I couldn’t find a YA book like Starseed. So that was a green light.
When I actually wrote Starseed, I read a lot of non-fiction that had to do with extraterrestrials, telepathy, dimensions, physics, abductions, because I wanted the research to back an earth-based story with aliens. The research is what makes it science fiction. But I wanted the science to take a back seat to the story of a human girl who is half ET and falls in love with an alien boy. That’s what makes it YA fiction.
So essentially, I think it’s best to read, read, read and borrow technique and actual research, but not plot and character. By reading, you can see what’s been done already, and by reading you become inspired to write something uniquely yours.
Kaila Guidry has always known she is different. After all, her mother insists Kaila hide her hair under a tin foil shield and a wig before leaving the house. When Kaila meets Jordyn Stryker one day at school, she starts to understand the origin of her mother’s seemingly irrational fears.
Jordyn Stryker was born and raised far from Earth, a starseed, one of six new students sent undercover to Louisina’s Bush High to learn human ways. When Kaila is pushed to her limit by high school bullying and cruelty, Jordyn steps in and awakens her to a new reality, and to love. Out of loyalty to him, Kaila looks the other way when the real purposes of the starseed begin to unfold.
As the horrific plan behind the starseed visit to Earth moves forward, Kaila and Jordyn, caught in an impossible love, must face who they really are and decide where their true loyalties lie.
As a youth, Liz Gruder saw a series of UFOs with her best friend while riding bikes. Ever since, she’s held a fascination for the stars. An avid reader, she used to hide under her covers and read with a flashlight. She has degrees in English and Psychology from Tulane University, a nursing license and a yoga certification. After going through Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Liz realized how short life is and is now slowly fulfilling her bucket list: she’s been to the Egyptian pyramids (totally awesome and thought provoking) and is now teaching yoga and writing speculative fiction. Starseed is her debut novel.
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