I had an interesting conversation with the Hubble the other day.  We were talking about my reading habits which were slowly deteriorating over the past few years due too many commitments and not enough time to read.  I was trying to explain the importance of reading to him from the perspective of a writer.

Now for those of you who ridicule romance novels, you will probably think that most have fluffy storylines bordering on the unbelievable with female characters who tend to swoon at the first sign of testosterone. Some, I would agree, are right up there with fairy tales and sparkling unicorns. But I have had the pleasure of stumbling upon a new genre (or maybe it is old and I just haven’t had the opportunity to find it) called Intrigue by Mills & Boon. Not only have I been transported into worlds of espionage, ex-special forces and grave danger with deep characters and backstories to make Chris Ryan pretty proud, the romance has been at a low decibel, giving the reader enough to enjoy the unfolding relationships between the characters without deflecting from the true action at hand.  Of course, in most cases, the two characters manage to end up together, which is not a bad thing in my opinion.  I enjoy a case of happily ever after once the bad guys have been eliminated or put behind bars.  But what surprised me the most was the intricate detail used by the authors for the backstories. 

I was pleasantly impressed by their working knowledge of government, high security, army and forensics, whilst not being overpowered by the details.  Admittedly, due to my lack of enduring reading ability, I have probably missed essential details other readers would aptly pick up and point out, but to be honest, I would grade myself as an able reader, capable of judging the romance books against their more serious counterparts without being completely out of my depth.

How does this tie into my conversation with the Hubble? Well, I was trying to explain that by reading these bite sized romances, I was building up my stamina to read larger novels again.  He wanted to know why? Why was I determined to build up my ability to read the heavy stuff when these delicious tit-bit books gave me such pleasure? You see, he’s not a great novel reader himself; news items, general knowledge books and quick reads are more his fodder.  I had to explain that, for every writer, we are influenced by the language around us.  Whether it is subconsciously or not, we tend to take up the traits of those we speak to and the language environment in which we are submerged. Reading various books with subtle style differences in language and vocabulary broadens our knowledge base and gives us new words to explore and use in our own writing – a proven fact with children learning to write.

Using myself as an example: I was brought up speaking Colonial English with local colloquialisms flavouring my language which reflect in my book, Deception.  I purposely used that style of language to reflect the vocabulary used in certain circles in Zimbabwe, Harare, during the time frame depicted in the book.  If you paid Zimbabwe a visit now, the vocabulary has changed slightly and some of the colloquialisms are now redundant. 

Working in a school with children from different backgrounds and staff members from various walks of life, again I am influenced by their language and vocabulary.  Not only am I influenced but I do notice family members using subtle words and phrases which they never used to use before. I use these from time to time in my current books, if appropriate.

By broadening my reading range I am able to break past the local influence and give my mind more variety to utilise in my different styles of writing; be it writing character dialogue for the children’s books or adding background flavour for another adult fiction novel. 

Trying to make the Hubble understand this has proved to be just as interesting as writing this article! My question to you is this: what do you find most influential in your style of writing – the books you read or your environment? Would you be able to adjust your language back to its core structure from when you were mature enough to consciously decide on your own the language you used in everyday life and the style of writing in which you chose to partake? I personally don’t know if I could.