Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hacking Strictly Prohibited...sort of.

Looking back, I see that I wasn't quite as thorough as I might have been.  Journaling isn't really the answer for every writer, though it is an excellent habit to get into.  Maybe you are reading an author that you love, and you wish you could write like them.  That's an excellent goal, but let's be honest:  you're not them.  You don't have their life or their story or their personality.  I love reading the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, but I'm not British.  I'm an American who lives in the not-so-deep South (hint:  Virginia is our upstairs neighbor).  The area I live in is in the eastern coastal plains.  I grew up in a pretty normal family of four, and I have two dogs.  I went to private school my whole life (a private university included) and I have a B.A. in History.  I'm picky with what I read and I like to knit and make jewelry in my spare time, and my professional work is in copywriting.  All of this defines who I am and what I write.  If I attempt an imitation of The Lord of the Rings or the Circle Trilogy or even Twilight, it simply will not work, because I am a completely different person from all of those authors.

My suggestion is to get to know yourself first.  Corny?  Most definitely.  But seriously, make a list of your hobbies, your interests, your background, date of birth, schools, favorite stuff and whether you prefer cats or dogs.  Act as if you are introducing yourself to someone else.  You'll find that you probably are a pretty fascinating person.  Most human beings are, even the boring ones. 

Go to your bookshelf and pick five books, but not random ones.  Pick five books that you have read multiple times, because those will be your favorites.  Those books will be the ones that have the stories and the writing styles that you absolutely love.  They will be written by the authors who you may make you want to write just like them.  Now put all of those books back on the shelf and forget about the style in them.  If you even so much as try to write like another author, then you will quickly be exposed as a fraud and a fake, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.  Be you in your writing.  I've said it before, but I feel that it's a pretty important point to keep making.  I've seen way too many books (I own one, actually...) that try so hard to be another book.  The stories have potential, but potential energy doesn't do anything unless it's allowed to be kinetic energy.  Unless you write like who you are, then your story will sour and you will be left with a shadow of someone else's work. 

I guess I keep coming back to the same point.  Your style needs to belong to you and no one else.  Of course, there's nothing wrong with being inspired by another writer, just as long as you aren't completely channeling them.  (Please, no hacking the brains).  If you have to, take a break from reading works by the strongest writers that you enjoy.  The strength of their work will have an effect on you.  It may make you want to be a better writer, but it may also beat its way into your fortress and try to take over.  Be you, you fascinating human, and you'll reap the rewards.

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