1. Tomaz
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    Tomaz Member

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    Imitating the tone of a recent book you have read?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tomaz, Jul 25, 2009.

    So I’ve just started a small project to relieve myself from a much larger and longstanding one. I thought it would be interesting to write something that compares the process of composing music and the process of writing - it’s an idea that I’ve had for awhile now, but since reading Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” I’ve found myself imitating the tone and style of that book. It was supposed to act as a bit of inspiration (and it was a great read ;)) but its ended up causing more problems for me when it comes to developing my own style throughout the piece.

    Has anyone else ever experienced this? Can it be a positive in any way?
     
  2. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's natural to pick up style elements you like from things you read and build them into your own work - I do it all the time, so does everyone else. If anyone tells you their style is entirely their own invention, devoid of outside influence, you can be pretty sure it's down to one of three things:

    1. They are a liar
    2. They are a fool
    3. They have been shut in a windowless cell for their entire lives, having no contact with the outside world. The clockwork-precise appearance of their food-pellets from the chute that falls from the ceiling is the only break in their day, which is otherwise occupied by filling a 200-page narrow-ruled writing pad with the outpourings of their insane mind.

    Options #1 and #2 are rather more likely.

    It's not ideal to be copying a single author's style, but this will grow out as you keep writing and keep reading. You'll find other tricks you like and use them, you'll work out a few of your own and throw those into the mix as well, and eventually you'll come out with something that is recognisably your own. Short version is: practice. It's a development thing.

    As far as this particular piece is concerned, if this imitation is unconscious then I'd carry on regardless for now, then come back to it a month or two after you've finished and rework it. You'll probably have a load of new ideas by then.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Not only is it healthy, its also the only way to become a good writer. Well, the best way, certainly. Whether you pick up an entirely attitude to structure or whether you only take a simple sentence construction, people are always (at least subconsciously) taking from the things they read. Always. ALWAYS. Even if what they take is a knowledge of what they don't want to do.

    It can only be problematic if what you end up writing is a pastiche of some other writer, a problem easily remedied by further reading and writing. I can almost guarantee that once you begin writing you will fall more and more into a style that, while maintaining elements of Murakami's (very distinctive) style, will be quite unique, given that your own thoughts, experiences and emotions have a great bearing on the way you write. For now, obviously, you are still very much in the head of Murakami, having just read his sorta-autobiography, but this will taper out as you continue reading or writing.

    But yeah, don't think of it as copying (unless your imitation goes beyond a stylistic similarity). Its an exceedingly important way to develop as a writer.
     
  4. Tomaz
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    Tomaz Member

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    That’s a relief, I think I just got a bit worried because not only do I appear to be kind of imitating the tone of Murakami, but also the basic composing/writing principle of my project is much like the writing/running comparison in his book. I’ll try to take your advice and not let it bother me too much.

    Appreciate it! :)
     
  5. Henry The Purple
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    Henry The Purple Active Member

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    arron89 pretty much said what I was going to say, only better! It's perfectly natural, and a healthy development for you as a writer.
     
  6. Evelyanin
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    Evelyanin Senior Member

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    Is there a number 4? Something like, "I'm not aware of me using anyone else's style of writing." Cause I really can't think of anywhere that I get my writing style from. I probably am using other styles, but I really don't know it. I'm honestly not lying, and I would be sincerely dissapointed to find out that I'm a fool. The whole cell thing doesn't apply to me either. I often wish I could write like other people. So many books that I read sound fantastic, so professional, but my writing sounds like it belongs in a book more suitable for the average pre-teen. I'm not exactly aiming for the pre-teen category. :(
     
  7. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Like I said, everyone draws from other writers, be it consciously or unconsciously. Style isn't something innate, its not something that just happens, its a synthesis of your entire experience and psychology and everything you've ever read, seen, heard, thought, etc. Not all parts are equal, and it is something you can consciously control and alter.
    When you read something that makes you think "I wish I could write like this person" don't just leave it at that - do some close reading. Take any favourite, effective passage, and tear it apart. Look at the way sentences are constructed, look at the way language is used, look at the devices the author is using, look at the images and the connotations evoked, consider how point of view is affecting the passage, consider what it adds to the plot, consider the other functions of the passage, think about why the author made each of the choices that led to the writing being that way, think about what alternatives he might have considered.
    It might sound like a lot, but once you learn to read analytically, its a skill that you won't want to turn off. People often remark that they don't like dissecting literature, but I find this to be a poor metaphor. Once you dissect a frog, you understand how it works and what its made of, but it is dead and lifeless. Once you learn how a piece of writing works and what it is made up of, it is more alive, more meaningful and more enjoyable than ever before.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You don't want toi IMITATE another writer's style. What you may want to do is to BORROW elements of another writer's style that you feel will integrate well into your own style.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ha! That's brilliant. :D

    I've made mention of the fact that I cannot read while I am writing because the style, tone, and color of whatever I am reading ends up in my own work. Months later when I go back to revise and edit, it is painfully clear to me exactly what I was reading at the time of writing one section or another. When I have mentioned this in forums, yes, the answer is invariably, "What?! Oh no, never me. My writing style is so original and inviolate that such a thing would be well nigh impossible. I can't believe you were even allowed to join this forum! MOD!!!!!!"

    Don't you just love the pretension? :rolleyes:

    To the OP. It happens. You may just have to put down what you are reading while you are writing.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i've sometimes assigned writing a paragraph each in 2-3 well-known writers' styles, as a learning exercise for mentees... i find it stretches their ability to use words effectively, in various ways, when bogged down in a poor style they can't seem to improve...

    it's the same thing art students often do... you may have seen some [in the flesh, or in movies] painting/drawing copies in art museums... it's part of the learning process to copy the masters, before acquiring one's own style...

    but it should only be done by beginning writers in short examples, since if you do it for too long, it can get you 'stuck' there and will make it harder to develop your own 'voice'...

    and if you write complete stories or books that way, unless you're being paid to do so by a deceased author's estate, to keep the 'line' alive, you either won't be able to sell it as your own, or may be sued for committing some sort of copyright infringement, or whatever it may be called [not necessarily successfully, but it will still cost you money to defend the charge]...

    i'm not up on the law on that last part, so you need to check it out with the copyright office or a literary attorney...
     
  11. Derek D.
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    Derek D. New Member

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    I think there are some writers whose styles are more infectious than others. If I read any Christopher Moore or Hunter S. Thompson, my voice is jacked for a month, so I have to plan my reading around when I'll have time to write. Heaven forbid I read Fear and Loathing again a month before NaNoWriMo.
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    ^ Much as I love Samuel R Delaney, his very unique take on syntax makes his work a definite no-no for me when I am writing.
     
  13. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I think every writer builds off one another, like a big literate tower. You absorb so many styles and wordings it develops into a style that's all your own.
     
  14. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    Hemingway ...
     
  15. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Hemingway ftw!
    I reread The Sun Also Rises as often as I can...his style in that book is perfect...and then it makes me write better...and ahhh......
     

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