Hatrack River Writers Workshop   
my profile login | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Imitation in Writing

   
Author Topic: Imitation in Writing
Grijalva
Member
Member # 3295

 - posted      Profile for Grijalva   Email Grijalva         Edit/Delete Post 
First off let me say Iím sorry for the informality of this post, but I just donít have the time to find all my references. This post is mostly to just see everyones opinion on this tool in writing.

In my study of English Literature I have come across a writer/teacher whose name evades me at this moment, who believed the best way to become a good writer was to imitate the greats.

By imitate he meant, to take a great writerís writing and type or rewrite it exactly on paper. Then you would study the writing and dissect it, by taking out what you like and dislike. You could also transform it to make it more likable to yourself, so with lack of other words, pretty much act like the writing is yours and try to make it better, or if you canít, find what makes it so good.

The reason I post this, is because I read a recent article that Bernard Cornwell, who is a bestselling author in historical fiction wrote. He completely agreed with imitating another writer, and has done so himself, and even stated that it helped him immensely become better. Orson S. Card even agreed with Cornwell, by posting a link to this article on the home page of this site.

So to get to the point, has anyone done this, and has it helped? Or if you havent, whats your opinion on imitating, do you believe it could be helpful, or detrimental to one's style.

I myself have started to imitate one of Greg Keyesís writings, but have barely begun, so I canít state any experiences with it so far.

[This message has been edited by Grijalva (edited May 22, 2007).]


Posts: 98 | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Balthasar
Member
Member # 5399

 - posted      Profile for Balthasar   Email Balthasar         Edit/Delete Post 
You might find this link useful.

http://www.jamesnfrey.com/articles/tenrules.html

I've done this myself. I'm still doing it, in fact. I'm slowly working my way through Silverberg's anthology, SCIENCE FICTION 101. I'd recommend, as Frey does, copying out many writers. Do it slowly, stopping a lot to think about why they're doing what they're doing. It's a tremendous exercise and can teach you a lot -- if you're disciplined.


Posts: 130 | Registered: Apr 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
Administrator
Member # 59

 - posted      Profile for Kathleen Dalton Woodbury   Email Kathleen Dalton Woodbury         Edit/Delete Post 
Typing what someone else has written is a very good way to gain a better understanding of what they have done in a work. It's also less painful than the other recommended way of really studying someone's work (read it straight through three or four times without reading anything else in between).

You'll be amazed what you notice by typing something that you totally missesd just reading it. I guess there's something about making the words go in your eyes, through your brain, and out your fingers onto the keyboard that makes them really sink in.


Posts: 8826 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Spaceman
New Member
Member # 9240

 - posted      Profile for Spaceman           Edit/Delete Post 
Another good exercise is to take a famous short story and use it as a model. Write your own story using exactly the same sentence structure only using your own words to support your story.
Posts: 2 | Registered: Aug 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
nitewriter
Member
Member # 3214

 - posted      Profile for nitewriter   Email nitewriter         Edit/Delete Post 
Interesting question. I've never done it and don't think i would. I've always thought that reading, reading and then reading some more is the best help in writing. When you find a great story, ask yourself what makes it great. Copying a story IMHO is like someone copying paintings in the hopes of becoming an artist - he might become a good draftsman, but artist? That's another matter, there's much more to it than that. I think the key ingredient to writing is imagination - I don't know how you "copy" that or learn it.
Posts: 409 | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Grijalva
Member
Member # 3295

 - posted      Profile for Grijalva   Email Grijalva         Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks for the information. I also truly enjoyed that link Balthasar, and would like to give it a more thorough reading when I have a chance.

Nitewriter, I believe imitating a story only allows you to dissect the writing on a much deeper level than just simply reading it. Also yes imagination is key, and I have no problem coming up with plot, but its the other aspect of writings that make it hard to put the story on paper. For example, when does the writer go into narrative, how does the writer pace their story, and what images do they use to get across description and get into the minds of their characters.

I believe imitating allows a writer to further study the english language in all its complexitys. Almost all the old writers such as John Donne, Milton, Benson, Dante, all imitated writers and in some ways improved their style, or genres they were writing in.

I feel it would be a waste not to recognize authors before me and how they used the english language to improve my own understanding of putting my stories onto paper, but again this is just my opinion.

[This message has been edited by Grijalva (edited May 23, 2007).]


Posts: 98 | Registered: Mar 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
sesavage
Member
Member # 5494

 - posted      Profile for sesavage   Email sesavage         Edit/Delete Post 
Hmmm...I've never thought of doing this, but it might just help. I'll get out Stephenie Meyer's Twilight right now.

nitewriter--it is a time-honored tradition for artists learning their craft to copy the masters' works. That is one of the imprtant ways of learning specific techniques and developing personal style. A truly great artist will then take what he has learned from these exercises and create his own masterpieces, with his own style. It makes complete sense to me that writers can do the same thing with existing writings.


Posts: 12 | Registered: May 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
arriki
Member
Member # 3079

 - posted      Profile for arriki   Email arriki         Edit/Delete Post 
I decided some years ago to see what the real differences between what I wrote and what the big guys who hit the bestseller lists wrote...what those differences might be.

I have learned a lot and keep learning as I continue not only to type out for my own use text from books I own, but locating and defining structures that I see repeated across genres.

Right now I'm in a private writing site hosted by KayTi where we are discussing writing and writing structures and how the big guys do it differently.

There are very few books on writing itself. By that I mean writing texts that discuss things other than plot, character, setting, etc.

[This message has been edited by arriki (edited May 23, 2007).]


Posts: 1580 | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Balthasar
Member
Member # 5399

 - posted      Profile for Balthasar   Email Balthasar         Edit/Delete Post 
I've also tried what SPACEMAN recommends. I used King's SALEM'S LOT. I imitated what he did sentence for sentence, paragraph for paragraph. But not word for word. If one of his sentences had 10 words, and mine had 15, no big deal -- so long as those 15 were good words. But if his paragraph had 6 sentences, so would mind, and my sentences would have to perform the same function as his.

It's pretty amazing what you can learn by doing this. Unfortunately, because it was so difficult, I gave up after three pages.

I've never did it with a short story. I might have to try.


Posts: 130 | Registered: Apr 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
tigertinite
Member
Member # 4803

 - posted      Profile for tigertinite   Email tigertinite         Edit/Delete Post 
I tried it once, and I still haven't stopped. . . My writing style changes with each new author I read. . .not all, but the ones that I like. It's fun to write in someone else's style, whenever I can't think what to write I'll write a scene that I've already written in a different style. . . My prefered author to mimic is Douglas Adams. . . It's a great way to get the creative juices flowing, or just laughing so hard that you can't really continue.
Posts: 99 | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Fuzzylogic
Member
Member # 5384

 - posted      Profile for Fuzzylogic   Email Fuzzylogic         Edit/Delete Post 

I've never thought of trying that myself but, it sounds like a good idea. Come to think of it I think I've seen that approach used in a movie.........Finding Forrester. If I remember Sean Connery's character gives the young man he's mentoring a short story he had previously written and tells the kid to just start typing and once his own words begin to take over, type those instead.

I think I may give it a shot.


Posts: 9 | Registered: Apr 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
nitewriter
Member
Member # 3214

 - posted      Profile for nitewriter   Email nitewriter         Edit/Delete Post 
Hmmmmm...ok, after reading the posts and after a little thought I do see the point, and do agree. In terms of getting technique down - narrative and dialogue for instance, I have to agree there is something to it. You make some good points Grijalva and Sesavage!
Posts: 409 | Registered: Feb 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Robert Nowall
Member
Member # 2764

 - posted      Profile for Robert Nowall   Email Robert Nowall         Edit/Delete Post 
I, too, have copied a few favorite stories and articles. Tried two novels, but only got about four chapters into each before other things distracted me. I think I learned something. (I tried revising once or twice, but the result was decidedly inferior.)
Posts: 8809 | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Mauvemuse
Member
Member # 5488

 - posted      Profile for Mauvemuse   Email Mauvemuse         Edit/Delete Post 
I don't think I would ever actually copy somthing word for word (I type waaaaaay too slowly) but I might read a book a few times and try it that way.
For school last year I wrote a few short stories in Hemingway's style which definatly changed my writing, and I've done a few other's like that.
But for now to do something that time consuming and that, I guess, worshipfull of another writer turns me off. I'd rather concentrate on my own writing while at the same time still reading great writers.

Posts: 39 | Registered: May 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

   Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2