Paying Homage to Influential Writers

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I’ve recently read the short story collection – Diaboliad by Mikhail Bulgakov. As with all of his writing, these stories revolve around the fantastical, written in the recognizable Bulgakov style. There’s one common thread in them, though – he’s always referring to a Russian writer, mainly a predecessor.

In the introduction, the English editor explains that it’s the Russian writer’s tradition to pay homage to your predecessors, those that shaped the national literature and your early development.

writers, homage, influence

Photo by Giulio Bernardi

It struck me as a wonderful tradition to be had. Not that writers around the world have never done the same, but certainly not as an established practice.

Writers’ Influences

Obviously, every writer has been influenced by previous writers. One single work sometimes happens to determine all of your future career: what genre you’ll write, what direction you’ll take, what kind of style you’ll adopt, what themes you’ll like to develop further, which experiences are worth discussing, etc.

These influences can be subtly traced in one’s writing, or pointed out by the writer himself. At other times, they are hidden or unstated.

For example, I’ve just finished A Journey Around My Room by the 18th century writer, Xavier De Maistre and I learned that this travel parody of the writer’s inner experiences greatly influenced the one and only Marcel Proust.

Being familiar with Proust’s masterpiece, it wasn’t hard to track the inspiration he got for developing his unique observations on time from this rather tiny and not widely popular book.

Paying Homage

So how does this paying-homage-to-a-writer work really?

It can be done in countless ways, such as: using one writer’s preoccupying theme and further developing it, rewriting your own version of a writer’s story, quoting lines by the writer in your writing, turning one’s writer into a character (thus bringing him to life), using one writer’s fictional characters in your own story etc.

Writers live twice.
Natalie Goldberg

Writers understand other writers the best. They change one’s life, they teach us, and they make us proud and jealous at the same time. They touch us to the bones; they lived in order to show what everyone is made of and can’t see.

And for that, we – writers – are most grateful. They paved the way for us, their contemporaries. Why not show them our gratitude by paying homage to them? They definitely deserve it.

Have you ever written something about a writer who greatly influenced you?

PRACTICE

Pay homage to a writer who influenced you by writing about him or a character(s) from his work(s), or a theme(s) he/she has written about. Choose any way you want to go about this task. The purpose is to show gratitude to a special someone who touched you immensely.

When you’re done, post it in the comments. And support others with your kind and honest feedback.

Sophie Novak is an ultimate daydreamer and curious soul, who can be found either translating or reading at any time of day.
She originally comes from the sunny heart of the Balkans, Macedonia, and currently lives in the UK. You can follow her blog and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

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39 Comments

  1. A. J. Abbiati

    My homage to Poe (writen quite a few years ago) ….

    An Ode to Form

    With a heaving heart I cower at your pure aesthetic power,

    Lost on some, but I’m devoured by your sea of symmetry.

    Whitman wilted well-formed versing, many Moderns spurned it, cursing,

    But I revel in immersing, swimming in your patterny,

    Buoyant rhythms, metric tides, residing in your poetry.

    –No, it isn’t lost on me.

    Sad it is I hear so often, poets feel that form’s a coffin.

    Will this hard line ever soften? Could another Edgar be?

    So now I’ve finished, finished writing, all my thoughts I thought worth citing

    While the Raven was inviting inspiration out of me.

    While the Raven was reminding me of perfect symmetry.

    –Never to be lost in me.

    Reply
    • ruth

      What an amazing tribute! How did you manage that effort so quickly? For myself, Poe was so dark and dismal I could not claim to be inspired. Love your use of repetition and rhythms, “buoyant rhythms”..”swimming in patterny”.

      Reply
      • A. J. Abbiati

        Thanks….wrote it several years ago so posting it was pretty quick. 😉

        I love Poe.. quite an inspirational fellow, literarily speaking. He had some personal issues I’d rather not emulate.

        Reply
        • Sophie Novak

          I love it! I find Poe’s stories quite fabulous.

          Reply
        • Winnie

          Despite whatever personal issues he had, he was a master we do well to emulate.

          Reply
    • Giulia Esposito

      Darn good! I can hear the cadence in this poem.

      Reply
  2. Nowick Gray

    Great topic! It was my infatuation with Thomas Mann that got me started writing my first novel, continuing his last:

    “It is not without a certain meager trepidation that I set out to record for the reader’s considered benefit the events that have occurred since that fateful scene in the living room of the Villa Cacaold, on the Rua João de Castilhos . . .”–or so the original Felix Krull may have expressed it.

    From such a remove in time and space as I currently enjoy, I can only attempt to recount to you the denouement of Felix’s adventurous pilgrimage in the full spirit of his own manner of speaking, with the full flavor of his own epoch. For this I ask the reader’s indulgence, with the promise of an attempt to make amends as my own progress through time allows. Meanwhile I make no excuses as I confess to a certain lingering tendency, in a more advanced age, to dawdle and divert, to digress and speculate–for the old Felix remains a part of me, in
    fact the most notable of my former selves.

    I should add that I’ve wondered many times if it was even worth the effort to delve back into the easily forgotten past, back to a story of an old, lost world. I would say that it was the rudeness of the interruption of our story by the scythe-swinging rider of an overly pale horse that motivates me to take up the tale again–out of spite, as it were. Perhaps I must exercise a playful revenge
    upon that unwelcome guest. And so, lest the reader be tempted to disbelieve my providential transference across the several planes of life, let me offer the confidence that I have, in the process, exposed the masquerade of that spectral impostor.

    Reply
    • Sophie Novak

      I’m impressed. Your style is impeccable. Great job Nowick! I love Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. It’s such a treasure-hut.

      Reply
      • Nowick Gray

        Thanks, Sophie. The problem is, how accessible is that ornate style today? Not to many readers, I’m afraid!

        Reply
        • Winnie

          Great piece. I liked his Death in Venice. Seeing the movie as well, with it’s many nuanced scenes, imprinted the story in my mind.

          Reply
  3. Ron Estrada

    I picked up my first Stephen King novel at the age of 12. Now, mind you, my mother didn’t screen my reading. I guess she figured that as long as I was reading, it was a good thing. I still check behind the shower curtain.

    It was Mr. King who showed me that it’s okay to just write like a regular guy. A writer can own a Firebird, live in where-the-hell-is-that?, Maine, and allow characters to be just like the idiots I grew up with.

    While I loved Dickens, Twain, and Steinbeck, even when forced to read them by my English teachers, it was King who made me believe that I could do this. My first short story, written for extra credit in my 7th grade English class, was about a werewolf. My first novel was about a guy with supernatural abilities. My characters were just plain folks. As was my narrative voice.

    So thank you, Mr. King. You opened the door for those of us who prefer a fun story over great prose. Good thing, too. This is about as good as I get. Stephen King will probably never get the respect of those classic literary writers, but I’m here to tell ya friends and neighbors, I’d trade my Mac for a Royal typewriter if I could tell I story like the King.

    Reply
    • A. J. Abbiati

      Ditto! Love King and his narrative style.

      Reply
      • Briana

        King taught me everything I need to know about writing. I’ve mentioned him and his influence countless times on my blog. His book On Writing changed my life.

        http://thecollegenovelista.wordpress.com

        Reply
    • Sophie Novak

      Stephen King will be Stephen King. Agreed? 🙂

      Reply
    • Nowick Gray

      You’re right, what a great storyteller. And I even disagree, the prose is great (more often than not) too! – except when he tries too hard to “get respect.” He doesn’t have to try; he’s a natural.

      Reply
  4. matthewosgood82

    Living on the edge, taking risks is ultimately a task that reflects more of a journey of pursuit than flight. It’s not running, it’s searching. My reading of Jon Krakauer started with Into Thin Air and Mount Everest then went quickly to Into the Wild and Chris McCandless’s pursuit of some deeper meaning other than the affluent lifestyle provided by his family and education.

    We can break down these people: McCandless, hikers on Everest, Pat Tillman in an 8-inch article. Crazy, hero, idiot, brave. But the reporting Krakauer provided the reader gave us a deeper insight to these people and also the human condition. These aren’t imagined figured. They’re human, like us. Filled with thoughts, contradictions, fears and ideals. Life is much more complex than most people live it. Few people brought me – as a reader and, ultimately, as a writer – that kind of depth of knowledge the way Krakauer does/did.

    Reply
    • Sophie Novak

      I absolutely adore Into the Wild: the book, the film, the soundtrack, everything. And I agree that his talent was in portraying these people as heroes and crazy idiots at the same time. That’s what a great writer does.

      Reply
  5. Brianna Worlds

    I think the book that’s influenced my writing the most, especially lately, is the novel Torn by Connelly Brooke. Brooke was 12 when she wrote this debut novel, and since she was a friend of mine (online) I read it! First of all, it wasn’t the content of the book itself that truly affected me. It was the fact that a twelve year old, younger than me by only a year, had planned, started, finished, and self-published a book. How inspiring! I only need to remember that to give my brain kick-start into gear.

    Here’s my homage to you, Connelly!

    I held my breath, stunned with joy by the vision before me. Smoothly, I crouched, looking out at the panther before me, black as night and just as deadly. It was beautiful, made of supple muscle and refined, yet strong bones. It’s coat was sleek and glossy, the early morning sun glinting off of it like shards of glass.
    A black panther! In my woods! What could be better?
    In my excitement, I let out a breathy, soaring laugh that went straight into the ears of the panther. It’s ears perked instantly, and it’s head swung around to face me, eyes menacing, wary. A low, threatening growl creeped up it’s throat and crawled through the air.
    Uh oh. I slowly got to my feet, backing away slowly, hoping to escape. Panther attacks are unlikely, but quite plausibly deadly.
    The panther stalked forward slowly, muscles rippling, stretching, contracting under it’s thick skin. I was about to yell, scream, stomp my feet, do anything really, to scare it away, when it suddenly stopped.
    The panther collapsed, twitching, writhing, whimpering. It’s eyes, wide open, looked right at me through my leaf-cover, and I saw a plea for mercy there, for release.
    I blinked in shock. Those eyes… Were they purple?
    I looked back at the panther hurriedly, but it’s eyes were now closed, it’s body slack and unmoving. I swallowed hard,looking away, wondering whether it had just had a seizure and died. Chances were it was simply unconscious, but I didn’t know what infection it had. I should probably snap a photo or two and leave to tell Gramps–
    A coughing resounded from the miniature clearing. My head snapped towards it, and focused on the figure of a twelve year old girl, laying on the ground where the panther had just been a moment before. My eyes grew big and round as I took in the raven black hair that flowed over her pale arm, her face turning away from me.
    I hesitated, unsure, wondering what to do. Part of me was screaming this was impossible while the other half sternly instructed my screaming self to get a grip, and help the poor girl already!
    The girl’s body suddenly went rigid, and she scrambled awkwardly to her feet, muscles trembling. Her face was smeared with mud and ash, and her eyes wary and searching, but under this desperation was beauty. Even as young as she was, she had high cheekbones and pooling, purple eyes. In those eyes was knowledge, and fear, and a thousand other things no girl my age should ever feel.
    I stepped forward, grimly determined to help her, and my foot landed on a twig, cracking through the air. The girl’s eyes whipped towards me, and without a second more, she was gone, disappearing into the woods with a barely perceptible swaying of the leaves.
    I stared at the place she’d disappeared, heart beating wildly, blood pressure steadily rising.
    I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened, but it sure wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen before.
    Awesome.

    Reply
    • Sophie Novak

      Wow, I’m impressed both with your twelve year old friend and your thirteen year old self. Way to go!

      Reply
      • Brianna Worlds

        Well, I’m fourteen now, but thanks so much!! 😀 Yeah, I’m super proud of her XD

        Reply
  6. Andre Cruz

    I enjoy writers’ quotes. I feel they are very inspirational and keep me going as a writer. So it should be no surprise that I love to tweet them. Nothing like sharing inspiration to other writers.

    Except I feel you don’t have to be a famous writer to inspire others.
    http://www.andrecruz.net

    Reply
  7. Giulia Esposito

    If I was way to page homage to you, it would be with tongue in cheek, with romance that is light and bright and sparkling. My character would be called Miss. Isabella Brayon, and she would have three sisters, and all three would lack the common sense that God gave to geese. For heavens knows, a lady’s graces lie in her curtsy, her smile and her ability to dance. All three utilized smartly ought land her a husband in possession of a large fortune. Though perchance in today’s world, where women finally are breaking through ceilings made of glass, she might turn down even such a gentleman of the peerage to cause the most sensational of scandals without the slightest notion that in doing so, she was demonstrating the grossest pride-even greater than the gentleman who so unwilling likes her, and desires her as a wife. But in the end, Isabella, would learn to temper her opinion and finally feel the entirely opposite and end most happily ever after with Mr. William Darney.

    Reply
    • Sophie Novak

      My very first reflex association was of Jane Austen. 🙂

      Reply
      • Giulia Esposito

        I’ve paid my homage well then!

        Reply
    • Nowick Gray

      Bravo, Ms. Austen! 😉

      Reply
      • Giulia Esposito

        Thank you!

        Reply
  8. Alicia Rades

    Linda Joy Singleton has always been my favorite author. When I was 12, I wrote a poem about one of her series, and she sent me an autographed book for it! I also recently got the chance to interview her, and I posted the interview on my blog. My NaNoWriMo project centered around one of her themes and used inspiration from her books. I would love to write a fan fiction short-story sometime, but I’m still working out plot ideas in my head.

    Here’s my attempt at writing for one of her characters:

    I see ghosts.
    They see me.
    I see the future
    in my dreams.
    Sometimes I’m lost
    and want to scream,
    but I wouldn’t trade it
    for anything.

    Reply
    • Sophie Novak

      It must be a thrill to get in touch with your most favorite author.

      Reply
      • Alicia Rades

        It is! We’re even Facebook friends, and she interacts with me! I never dreamed that would happen in a million years when I started reading her books.

        I shared this post and my poem with her. She said it was one of the nicest things anyone did for her.

        Reply
        • Sophie Novak

          Well, I think you should find yourself another favorite author to hunt now. 🙂

          Reply
  9. The Cody

    The writer who really affected me first was John Irving. The way he so seamlessly integrated back story just blew me away. I remembered trying it with my first WIP attempts and failing miserably, LOL. My first mentor repeatedly said, “You throw all this back story at the beginning and it’s really boring and distracting.” And I would reply, “I’m trying to be John Irving!” She wasn’t having it.

    After that, I loved the way he told his stories. Although I’ve only read it once, I will never forget Owen Meany playing the Ghost of Christmas Future.

    Reply
    • Sophie Novak

      Sounds like you owe an homage piece to John Irving. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Jacqueline

    I have so many favorite authors I don’t know who I pick maybe some thought has to go into it

    Reply
    • Sophie Novak

      Choose at random or write a few pieces. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Natalie

    OMG. I don’t really have anything to add to this comment section other than the fact of how thrilled I am to encounter a fellow Bulgakov enthusiast. Did you read him in English, Russian, or another language?

    Reply
    • Sophie Novak

      I’m glad too. I read him in English. I wish I were able to do it in Russian.:-)

      Reply
  12. Winnie

    When I first read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov I was so fascinated by his descriptions and metaphors I immediately read it two more times after I finished. I had the impression, ‘Lolita’ as Humbert Humbert, the middle-aged protagonist called the sixteen-year old he kidnapped after her mother, his landlady, died, didn’t mind moving around the country from motel to motel as they fled the police.
    In this scene she’s being cross-questioned by police after Humbert Humbert is taken into custody.

    I don’t know what all the fuss is about.
    So I missed a few weeks of school. Big deal. I can always catch up. The stuff they teach us is of no use, anyway. Who wants to know about those old fogeys who had long hair and wore knickerbockers?
    They should rather have lessons on Hollywood. I’d like to know more abut James Dean and Sal Mineo, and Errol Flynn, and Lana Turner.
    That kind of history we’re interested in.
    Uncle Humbert, I call him Humby for short, knows exactly what us teenagers want. I was relieved when we packed our things in his station wagon and drove away from the house. All those relatives I’d never seen before walking round on tiptoe talking in whispers gave me the creeps. The place felt like a morgue.
    And me being ignored all the time.
    Look I loved my mom. But as she believed herself her time had come. And mine too, I guess. Uncle Humby was the only father I knew. He had his funny habits, but most of the time he didn’t bother me.
    Like at all those motels we stopped at. We always had separate rooms. He always made sure I was comfortable. Besides Hollywood magazines, I had all the ice cream, soda and hamburgers I wanted. Often he’d come over and help me shampoo my hair and paint my nails, and all that stuff.
    We did share a bed once. During that big freeze when even Florida had frost. Remember that? The room was so cold we had to get together in one bed to keep warm. Then Uncle Humbert helped me sleep better, even though he was shaking so much at first.
    Because of the cold.
    How many states did we travel through? I lost count. Most times I snoozed in he back of the station wagon. The places all looked the same, anyway. Except for the two deserts we crossed.. I thought New York was hot but there I sweated my butt off. Do you know how many Cokes I drank in one day? Seventeen! Wait till I tell my friends in school.
    They tell me I won’t be going back there. Now I have to make new friends all over again. What a drag.
    The moving between motels got to me in the end. Sometimes he’d burst into my room in the middle of the night and make me pack up. Then I’d finish sleeping in the back of the station wagon. It wasn’t easy, especially when he took all those bumpy side roads.
    Am I sorry for going with him? Well, I don’t even think about him any more. I told him that when he refused to take me to Hollywood. He said it was too dangerous. If it was those big stars wouldn’t live there, would they?
    Who will I be staying with now? Not once had any of her relatives come visiting before she died. They left straight after the funeral.
    If you really want to know, I’m not happy now. What’s going to happen to Uncle Humby?

    Reply
  13. Mer

    I’ve been reading since “very” early childhood–reading things that weren’t considered for children or even young adults. Mom kept an eye on things, making sure that nothing entirely inappropriate “slipped through” (even making me wait until I was 13 to read Gone With the Wind! I began it at the stroke of midnight on my birthday in 1965!)…so my “favorites” have been many and varied over the years, but the book that made me say: “I want to write like *this*!” was Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. All these years later, whenever I begin to lose touch with the way I want to write, re-reading TKMB realigns my creative soul with all that is right in the universe. Thank you, Miss Lee, for Scout and Boo and especially Atticus.

    (for some reason, when I post as a guest, I show up as Viki, when I finally got signed in, it shows as Mer–go figure)

    Reply
  14. MishaBurnett

    I have a lot of references to writers that influenced me, William Burroughs, Phillip Dick, Samuel Delany, Tim Powers. Mostly names taken from characters in their works. I hope that people who read my work and are familiar with them will catch the references and be amused, but getting the in-jokes isn’t necessary to follow my stories.

    Reply

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