I give my end-of-week post to other authors and bloggers whose work is worth noting. There are so many excellent articles out there, so many good poems and stories and artwork that I want to use my online space, once a week, to share something you might otherwise miss. To see last week’s episode, click here.
This week’s spotlight is an article by Stephanie Storey (from the blog, Oil and Marble) called “10 Things Art Can Teach You About Writing.” It’s a very creative, clever way to look at writing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The only one I’m unsure about is copying the masters. I think all authors should learn from others, noting what they’re doing with words in various places, but I don’t think just writing a story in the style of Dickens or Austen, Stephen King or George R. R. Martin will help you become a better writer, because that can lead to over-simplification. Are you writing a story that resembles theirs, in plot or setting, or are you writing a story like theirs as far as narration? Do you have a similar sense of humor? Theme? Genre? Characters?
Too often, I think we try to write like our favorite authors, emulating their content, characters, and plot devices rather than their methods. The trouble is, we can duplicate a story too easily in writing. Through words, we can reproduce it, line by line. We can’t just look at the artwork of someone else and strive to reproduce it, stroke by stroke, because our strokes are words and it takes no mastery, no genius, to place one after the other in exact imitation of someone else.
So, in writing, I think we have to focus on examining how a master did something without seeking to recreate a similar copy. In visual arts, it would be looking at how they handled light, focus, perspective, and choice of medium. In writing, we can look at how they handled things like narration, dialogue, and characterization.
And we can copy methods for certain kinds of scenes. If you note passages that you felt were effective, as a reader, you can go back to them later when writing that same sort of scene to remind yourself of what worked. If your writing a scene with a swordfight or hand-to-hand battle, find an author who excelled in that part of his plot. If your writing a romance, note what worked in other books: What made that first kiss effective? What made a passage romantic, a breakup heart-wrenching, or a fight significant?
Also, look for authors who use the same kinds of narration as you do. Which details do they include or leave out? How do they describe the surroundings, and as a reader, what does it make you feel?
Noticing what your reading–what reads well in your genre and why–is far more helpful, I think, then trying to write something “like another author,” because you will never be exactly like someone else. She may focus on her female characters while you lean towards the men, or he might use a narrator while you use none. But even if you admire authors from a different genre or style than yours, there will still be portions of their writing and ways they use words that you can borrow, deploying similar techniques in your own work. And when you do, you can be confident, knowing they worked for you and many other readers who’ve read the same timeless works.
Copyright 2015 Andrea Lundgren Photo by GaborfromHungary, Creative Commons