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Do any of you imitate writers and if so how? (1 Viewer)

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Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Do any of you imitate writers and if so how or why? Any of these can be answered.

I was considering picking up two books on the subject of imitating. Why? Because that is supposedly how some great prose was achieved by genius authors. One such imitator was Milton.
Some books on the art of imitation that I bought to write better prose:

Style and Statement
Corbett, Edward P. J.
This book discusses how to do imitation and has sections on syntax and rearranging sentence structure.
Writing with Style: Conversations on the Art of Writing (2nd Edition)
Trimble, John R.
 
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Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Thanks indianaroads for your honest reply.

I tried to read the 1st book I had previously posted. It's not a book on how to imitate, but it made arguments in favor of imitation. I think I will imitate old writers. I want to use other writer's descriptive passages to ease the burden of describing without having to leave my house. I did read that reading journals, letters, and maybe even old dairies can help with first person narration. The work that is to be imitated needs to be in the public domain. For example, Jorge Borges imitated Cervantes's Don Quixote in one of his works and replaced many of the words. It was not about knights. While someone used Milton's lost paradise to write a new story. With copyright being in effect, I imagine one must be very careful. It didn't exist before the 1800s, and that is when people practiced with new ideas emerging from reading the text.

I posted now what I bought (the above 2 books). It should take 3 weeks to arrive at my house.

I am thinking imitation will help me as a solution. If I replace the words in sentences, then I assume that is one aspect of imitation. I need to do more research since I know some aspects of imitation, but few.

There is something about prose that eludes my understanding. But anyways to use the words of one writer it is a legitimate practice. They practiced it by having a passage and writing by changing the ideas. Maybe sometimes the verbs were kept.

I once did this a long time ago. But I am afraid of plagiarism. Any tips when using imitation to avoid plagiarism? I assume one way is by understanding sentence patterns.

Reading is like being transported into another world. No one has witnessed what the authors of many diverse backgrounds have had including eyewitness accounts and reported sightings by writing stories imo.

Also, I will say Ulysses was based on Homer's Odyssey. Not to mention many old writers after 1800 did it. An old text also becomes a new creation by imitating.

I am still not sure whether I sure try to purchase this book. Over the next couple of days I will know the answer:

Creative Imitation and Latin Literature 1st Edition​

 
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I imitate other writers often, consciously and probably unconsciously, too. Sometimes I only notice I'm imitating after I'm done. An example: I wrote "He Who Looks Through the Trees" in a style based somewhat on Arthur Machen, using some similar imagery, and half-consciously structured it with the same plot beats as "Dagon" by H. P. Lovecraft. The result is (I think) original, mostly because my worldview and the combination of imagery is different.

A really funny one that my brother noticed is that the voice in a dark YA story I'm working on is similar to Junie B. Jones, which is a goofy series for very young readers (he described it as "angsty Junie B. Jones"). The similarity is funny because the tone is very different, but the voice itself has some parallels.

I do think imitation is a very good way to learn, and honestly, if you are pouring in your own ideas and such, the results of imitation are often original. At my old high school, I had two different poetry units: in one, we had to study one poet and write a poem in their style (along with other poems in forms specified by the teacher); in the other, the teacher let us write whatever poems we wanted. I learned far more from the unit where we imitated one poet and wrote in specified forms.
 

CyberWar

Senior Member
I can't really say I imitate any particular writing style in English beyond it being heavily-influenced by colloquial urban American English (probably an influence of American films). Probably the reason why I sometimes find my characters sounding uncomfortably like modern big-city Americans rather than what would be more appropriate for the given setting. It's especially annoying when I actually have an idea of how I want my characters to sound, yet lack sufficient command of the language's variant forms to make them sound plausible. I suppose I'm just not sufficiently familiar with different dialects and how different non-Anglophones speak English.

When writing in my native tongue, I've tried to imitate the epic-poetic style of Aleksandrs Grīns, who is my favourite writer and greatest inspiration, but the result also tended to come across as unnatural and forced. Grīns writes very eloquently, using exquisitely-complex yet easily-followed sentences (you can literally write a page-long sentence, still make sense and be grammatically-correct in Latvian) and terms and expressions that were considered archaic already in his time (the 1920's and 30's). In a way, you could compare him to Shakespeare. All that just doesn't add up with the more blunt and concise language that I've grown up with and learned to write in.
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
Yes, in short stories I have tried imitating Dickens, Hemingway, Runyon, and Robert Graves. I do not perfectly succeed, but I don't think that's the point -- the point was to force me to write in a different way, finding ways to express my ideas on a different writing terrain. Oh, I almost forgot to say -- it was tremendous fun.

Don't artists practice different styles? I think it added tools to my tool box, though I can't say for sure. I want my writing style to be chameleon. For one book I wrote a chapter imitating afk4life from this forum.

For example, Runyon (Guys and Dolls) uses only present tense verbs. No one does that but him. So I did that. I also tried to catch his way of using slang.

Corndog is a bum, that is what kind of guy everyone knows him by because he is living on the street. He gets his name one day when Short Frankie sees him eating a corndog out of the trash and being a very happy guy. This is such a funny thing to Short Frankie that he tells everyone about Corndog.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
It is good to hear all opinions on these questions, which I all appreciated. Besides using old authors, what steps can we take to avoid plagiarism in the sense that people respect your work and think that you created something new from something such as an old work? Thanks everyone for the replies. I've been persuaded because of the replies. Any strategies in regarding imitation in particular? I will look around, but I prefer authors tell me their approaches to imitation. If you know more than one language you can translate and imitate one work I think because the sentence structure changes. Then there is imatio which is similar. The big difference is that you imitate from several sources and not just from one author. Thanks to everyone that made a good contribution to the thread and I did appreciate all the opinions.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Everyone's influences here are so sophisticated! For me, it's Jackie Collins. I have read most of her work because I love her style. She takes you right into the heads of a diverse cast of characters and shows you every visceral thought. The stories are more about how people think than what they do. While I'm inspired by her, I wouldn't say I try to imitate her. It's more a matter of writing in a style that I prefer to read, and she has shown me what that looks like.

Ironically, in this article, 5 Writing Lessons from Jackie Collins, the first point is:

"1. Find Yourself:

The first, and most important tip from Jackie is to always be unique and never to copy others! In her words, “The first rule of writing is write about what you know, not what you think you know.” So, think about what you’ve done in your life and write about that. Do not draw inspiration from the lives or experiences of other writers, find your own personal experiences and get inspired by them. By doing this, your books will have a more personal touch, and will appeal to the audiences more."

The other four lessons are worth a read as well:

 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
She has an interesting personality because of what she says and because of her unique beliefs and success. I think if I imitate some old works, I would be able to create something from that which is new. I don't think I would copy the author's voice. Likewise, I know some authors have succeeded in modeling or copying authors currently protected by copyright law. But that is not my intent. Eldest for example copies the character's personalities. I don't aim to copy characters, plot, only by replacing the words I think of. I could maybe improve the structure of my sentences and paragraphs.

Word choice or diction can evoke a feeling, such as a well-placed verb. All I want is to give shape to my prose. I want to imagine details by changing the author's words. It's not easy for me to organize the ideas. I won't steal the voice which is the writer's emotions. What I will take is the prose if that makes sense. My voice is my emotion and the topic and ideas would be different as well.

Rather, finding different words for each detail that I supply from my own memory. I think I have my own attitude to bring to a story and by writing the words that suggest a new subject. I understand the concerns people may have when imitating.
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I think if I imitate some old works, I would be able to create something from that which is new. I don't think I would copy the author's voice.

Word choice or diction can evoke a feeling, such as a well-placed verb. All I want is to give shape to my prose. I want to imagine details by changing the author's words. It's not easy for me to organize the ideas. I won't steal the voice which is the writer's emotions. What I will take is the prose if that makes sense. My voice is my emotion and the topic and ideas would be different as well.

Rather, finding different words for each detail that I supply from my own memory. I think I have my own attitude to bring to write a story and making it a new subject.
I think that would be a great exercise for the purpose of improving your overall style.

I have often wondered if one wanted to model their writing after someone they admire, how one would go about it. Like @indianroads admires that one opening paragraph from Ray Bradbury. How would one go about writing something in a similar fashion? How hard would it be to imitate with a completely different thought?
 
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Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Here's an exercise of what I have in mind. Take in mind, I need the book to understand how some practice imitation. But this was done for your Taylor since you've been kind. I was 6-10 years old at the time. This is a childhood memory.

Tone
Consider:
And I started to play. It was so beautiful. I was so caught up in how lovely I looked that at
first I didn’t worry how I would sound. So it was a surprise to me when I hit the first wrong
note and I realized something didn’t sound quite right. And then I hit another and another
followed that. A chill started at the top of my head and began to trickle down. Yet I couldn’t
stop playing, as though my hands were bewitched. I kept thinking my fingers would adjust
themselves back, like a train switching to the right track. I played this strange jumble through
two repeats, the sour notes staying with me all the way to the end.
— Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club


And I started to draw. It was a painful experience. I was tracing everything I could imagine with a piece of paper and crayons. Such as coins and sketches from a coloring and drawing book. I wasn't worried about how it would look. I just wanted to impress. I couldn't stop drawing until the afternoon had ended. The sun set on the horizon. I was without care in a world full of worries. It was a blissfully cold day for those that didn't care. My parents wanted me even to share with my brother a coloring book. I refused. Then I decided to obey. As I looked around the room, the coloring books had been ruined. All because I had shared a moment with my little brother.

I think this helps me remember if you will the past memories of other people. I think it is the technique of narration by Charlotte Mason.
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Here's an exercise of what I have in mind. Take in mind, I need the book to understand how some practice imitation. But this was done for your Taylor since you've been kind. I was 8-10 years old at the time. This is a childhood memory.

Tone
Consider:
And I started to play. It was so beautiful. I was so caught up in how lovely I looked that at
first I didn’t worry how I would sound. So it was a surprise to me when I hit the first wrong
note and I realized something didn’t sound quite right. And then I hit another and another
followed that. A chill started at the top of my head and began to trickle down. Yet I couldn’t
stop playing, as though my hands were bewitched. I kept thinking my fingers would adjust
themselves back, like a train switching to the right track. I played this strange jumble through
two repeats, the sour notes staying with me all the way to the end.
— Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club
First off, I love the way Amy Tan writes...good choice! You've done an excellent job of imitating the voice. Just a couple of things I might consider:
And I started to draw. It was a so painful. (The simplicity of the above sentence is strong.) experience. I was tracing everything I could imagine with a piece of paper and crayons. Such as I traced a coins. And then another. (The use of repetition creates a nice building of intent.) I wasn't worried about how it would look. I just wanted to impress. I couldn't stop drawing until the afternoon had ended. The sun set on the horizon. I was without care in a world full of worries. It was a blissfully cold day for those that didn't care. My parents had even wanted me even to share with my brother -- a coloring book. I refused. Then I decided to obey. As I looked around the room, the coloring books had been ruined. All because I had shared a moment with my little brother. (Nice ending.)
I'm going to try this technique myself. Just before writing my own stuff. I can see how it would be like doing arpeggios before playing music.
 
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indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
A suggestion:
What is it that you like about these other voices? Deconstruct it, and be specific. Once you have that figured out, work on that aspect of your writing.
Vonnegut pointed to the absurdity of the world, and commented on it.
Heinlein also included social commentary, but was more subtle about it.
Bradbury's descriptions are visceral, it feels like you're there.
Clarke's intellect was monumental, he was a Nobel Prize winner, yet he considered spirituality.

As Bruce Lee said: Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Thanks Taylor on pointing out the corrections that were needed. I seldom narrate that way. I guess I used the original excerpt and example to stimulate my memory. If I wrote this, it would be in third person. I just did write it to show you, my intentions concerning imitation. Also, it was done on the spur of the moment. With the replacing of the words and the subject, I knew what subject I could write about. That's opposed to being lost in thought and not knowing a subject that would be worthy.

I am currently at a hotel. I wanted to spend time with my own family and I ate some of my dinner. I was absent during a period of time. If you will, the kid would be an imaginary character if I ever put it into a story. If I need to be more concrete and specific, I would probably look at a descriptive paragraph to imagine new details of a place. Then I would when trying this provides what I can remember when inspired by the writer's example.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
Imitation is a tricky subject, and I think only with a good grasp of the nuts and bolts of writing and a clear understanding of why the target of their imitation wrote as they did can a writer pull it off.

I've seen quite a few first-time writers who thought they were "the next (whomever)". They wind up copying a plot and making a laughable mess of the style. If you can imagine the original author making numerous mistakes, that's what I've seen.

So, like anything else in writing, the writer has to be fluent in the basics themself, first.

To answer Glass's question, I don't try to imitate another author, but if I've read and appreciated a number of an author's books, they influence my own writing. Those authors in turn, when interviewed, are open about the writers who influenced THEM. In addition, I pick up little tricks from talented authors and incorporate them as useful. I don't consider that imitation, because you'll find those tricks recommended in blogs and other discussions of effective writing.

I'd theorize the most effective way to imitate an author would be to write in our own natural style, but throw in little bits of the other author's style at key moments, similar to the way a voice impressionist operates. They pick up on highly recognizable elements of voice and movement, and that sells the impression.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
I'd theorize the most effective way to imitate an author would be to write in our own natural style, but throw in little bits of the other author's style at key moments, similar to the way a voice impressionist operates. They pick up on highly recognizable elements of voice and movement, and that sells the impression.
I think I pretty much tried to give the same thought expressed. I think it is expressed in what I quoted from you, which I agree with. But I may have a different interpretation. You did say voice and movement, which I think is what Taylor said in reply in an attempt to express what she thought. It is the voice that creates the impression. I think what I did was capture the impression of the author, like you said. Sure, movement is also what I want to accomplish. What I understand by movement may be a tad bit different from what you said. I am not 100% sure what you mean by movement. But I will try to guess or try to come up with an explanation.

If I try to understand it movement is sometimes what gives style to the prose besides emotion, or tone (the structure of the paragraphs or the situation in the narration or description that implies movement). I guess this is what is called style. I know I need to be cautious in today's times when trying to copy an impression of a style. I am trying to improve the prose of my fiction primarily. I know that people can get carried away and copy the plot and characters. Inspiration is always considered a good way for a writer to write. Some writers read and make notes on how a writer achieved a certain effect in a story. Supposedly it teaches them more about writing than anything else will. They look at the parts of the story and examine them. This helps them imagine a story.

I need to ask this other question. On this same topic, I want to ask how can we be inspired by what we read? What helps? Thanks, vranger for contributing to the discussion and what you said has made me curious to know this answer. How do we read with intent? How do we make sure we get inspired by something someone else wrote? Does anyone personally like to take notes of stories and poems and their reactions to them? How do we put what we read in a story to use when writing our own story?

About the nuts and bolts. Yes, I understand I haven't mastered for instance prose. I constantly look for ways to understand how to practice it or make a competent attempt. Research is one way. It can be tiring but is well worth it. When critiquing Puellamagi's work in the workshop. It took me 2 hours to find what I was looking on the internet. It was this information on towers. I was losing hope but sure enough I found the information I needed.
 
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