Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – anon
It is very easy to echo a favourite writer. Like picking up a strong accent, you may well do it in unconscious admiration. Does that make your work fake? A blend of your most-read authors would not be plagiarism as such – but would it still be your work ?
Since we are a result of our life experiences – and a book properly read and interacted with is an experience – I would say this is inevitable. We write who we are – and we imitate.
But I’d suggest taking it one stage further. Do it deliberately.
Take an aspect – the structure of a thriller, the rhyme scheme of a poem, one choice character – and play with it. Analyse how they did it and apply your new knowledge. You might draft a thriller set in a completely different world, compose a poem on another topic or send that character on a new voyage.
It worked for Constable – an avid copyist: Shakespeare – a great ‘borrower’ of stories and writers such as Jean Rhys in ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ & Susan Hill in ‘Mrs de Winter’. There are many more examples – indeed for most of art history learning from the Masters (please forgive the sexist term) was de rigeur.
You may wish to acknowledge the original – to make the source obvious. I did so in my poem ‘Meanwhile, Mr Ferlinghetti’ because it was a reply – but it is not compulsory.
There is plenty of controversy in this area – arguments over intellectual property are complex and often heartfelt. I would say that it’s not the idea that matters – it is the execution: something I have learned from Greg Mosse on the West Dean MA. If I put in the spadework and create something new – well, then it’s my work.
I would love to know other people’s views on this – is it always wrong to copy?