The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Monday, May 18, 2015

Slipping into a Writer's Style

       More than a decade ago, I joined the Gateway Writing Project. It's the St. Louis site--part of the National Writing Project--and teaches teachers to become confident writers and teaches them how to teach writing. It was a life-changing summer.

      One of the things we did (and it still amazes me) was an activity that required us to slip into the skin of a writer and write like them. (This brilliance was delivered by Dr. Jane Zeni.) Some teachers were given a Kurt Vonnegut passage. Some were given a Jane Austen passage. I don't remember the other authors that were included. I only know it made each of us closely examine an author's style. The rhythm of their writing. The way they use punctuation. Their word choice.

      After we felt we were familiar with our author's style, we were asked to insert three different sentences into the passage, and if we matched their style well, it would appear as if it were a single, seamless piece. Of course, we hoped that the other educators would not be able to sniff out the impostor insertions.

       If you could write like anyone, who would it be, and why? 

28 comments:

  1. Somewhere I read a successful writer did this every morning before writing...he read a few pages and then began his writing day in that voice. I can't remember who did this though. I would like to write like Willa Cather...classic...vivid...just a great storyteller and writer of place. If it were a poet, I would like to write like Jane Kenyon...ever read her poem Otherwise...is more than wonderful!!!!

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    1. Claudia--I've never even heard of Jane Kenyon. Thanks for dropping that name--I'll have to check her out.

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  2. Oh, so many! Kurt Vonnegut. John Steinbeck. Joseph Wambaugh. Would love Jane Austen's insight.... I think what makes us our own writers is the way we put together all the styles we love. What a great exercise.

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    1. Joseph Wambaugh... I haven't thought of him in ages!

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  3. George Carlin. A comedic genius and incredible wordsmith.

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    1. Joeh--We lost a great one when we lost George.

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  4. I'm not sure who it would be, but I'm sure who it wouldn't: Nathaniel Hawthorne, specifically The House of the Seven Gables.

    Maybe Mark Twain. Ol' Sam could spin a yarn! Or maybe John Steinbeck.

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    1. Val--I've have NEVER read anything by Hawthorne. What am I missing?

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  5. Stephen King. The content isn't my go-to, because I love Romance the best, but I always love reading the way he writes. Straightforward, but often elegant, with an economy of words even in his longer books. In one of his books---the title escapes me---he took 2-3 sentences to describe the sky and clouds, and it was so flippin' beautiful that I re-read it half a dozen times and then read it aloud to my husband to see if it was as perfect flowing off the tongue as it was on silent reading. (Yes, it was.) What King said in a few sentences would have taken me paragraphs. In my dreams, I'm blessed with that arsenal of words and the skill to create such gorgeous architecture with them. Some day, maybe. One can dream!

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    1. Lisa--And King can do gorgeous and twisted in the same paragraph...

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  6. Well, I made the mistake of writing in other voices rather than my own, thinking I could be Flannery O'Connor or P.D. James--it was not pretty. :-)

    But I will admit that whenever I read the Brit mystery writers (right now, it's Elizabeth George), I pine for their oh-so-veddy-proper style and lyrical prose. I mean, even the funny Brits, like P.G. Wodehouse, write quite beautifully.

    *Sigh*

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    1. Cathy--Maybe those fish and chips are magical...

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  7. Stephen King for me, too. I find him to be absolutely brilliant and highly underrated as a writer.

    As for that writing exercise, I find that type of thing nearly impossible to do.

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    1. Mama Zen--I think some don't like horror, and think that is all King does.

      It's their loss, for sure...

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    1. Michael--You ARE Lewis Black. ;)

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  9. I have no idea. There are so many. Love the picture of your son and his girlfriend. And sorry about your ticket... oh the songs we get lost in.

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    1. Lynn--Hey, at least he wrote the ticket for a lower speed. For that, I'm grateful.

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  10. What a neat exercise, Sioux. I couldn't begin to say which author I'd want to write like, because I love so many. John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens, Margaret Mitchell..? In contemporary literature, I adore Jonathan Evison. He has such a talent for crafting vast, panoramic scenes (I think he writes like a current James Fennimore Cooper, whom I also love, especially his sea stories). But then I admire too someone who can write sparse prose, like Anita Shreve. I love Carol Casella's medical dramas, Diane Chamberlain's family dramas, and Anne Lamott's pretty much everything. See what I mean? I just can't pick!

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    1. Dickens, Steinbeck and Lamott are some of my favorites, too. I've never read any of Casella's or Chamberlain's. It sounds like I need to get acquainted with them.

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    1. (said Sioux's extremely biased daughter).

      But thanks.

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  12. Fitzgerald's style in The Great Gatsby. It just draws you in so you forget about the style!

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    1. Mary--I'm ashamed to say I've never read the book. I guess I should?

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  13. Toni Morrison has such a way with words. But there are so many others.

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    1. Linda--Toni Morrison IS quite a wordsmith.

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  14. Any writer that draws me into a story. High on that list is my often-picked favorite of all time, Harper Lee. Love, love, love how she could weave a tale.

    Pat
    Critter Alley

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    1. Pat--I assume you'll be reading the sequel this summer?

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Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by...