I know I really don’t need to say this, but I want to do a bit of a twist to it. The title of this post says it all. Write the same way your favorite authors do. You don’t necessarily need to write in the same genre, but you can mimic their writing style.
Case in point, I love John Steinbeck. I love his character development and the natural way his characters interact. Conversations in his books do not seem forced or contrived. They are true and real in a way that most writers can never achieve. But I’ll save my tirade on bad conversations in writing for my dialogue class.
When I write, I really try to emulate Steinbeck’s genuine and instinctive tone. Sometimes I succeed. Often, I will go back and re-read some of my favorite Steinbeck works just to sharpen the flavor, as it were.
And I just don’t do that with Steinbeck. While writing Moon Flower, I went back and re-read half of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series to get his flavor. Write what you know and write how you read.
Which leads me to the real twist I wanted to present. And this is really my personal insight on language, so take it for what it is worth.
Language was invented to communicate. Written language was invented to be used when verbal language could not be used. Meaning, language’s primary method of delivery is the spoken word.
If words should be spoken, then where do books come in? Books are long stories, plain and simple. But, I believe that books should be read aloud. Take Dr. Suess for example. “I would not eat them with a house. I would not eat them with a mouse. I would not eat them here or there. I would not eat them anywhere.” On the page… repetitive and not very interesting. Any editor would immediately send these lines for a rewrite. But spoken in character and with emotion (and with an affected and accented voice that my kids love), these lines leap out and paint a visual picture of a dynamic interaction between two characters.
Often much of the nuance character is lost when the auditory version of the story is neglected. So, to fix that, when you are re-reading your favorite authors that you try to emulate in your own writing, get the book on audio. I’m sure your local library has several of your favorites available on CD or for download. Personally, I subscribe to Audible.com where I can download two full-length books every month. To be honest, I prefer to read recorded books. I get sooooooooo much more out of the story than if I had read the printed page.
Try it. Get one of your favorite books on audio and see if the reading experience in heightened by reading the story aloud by a professional reader. I really think you will find a huge difference and will want to keep reading several of your favorite stories on audio. As you read audio books and try to emulate the writing, I am sure you will see a marked difference in the quality of your writing. Mine is clearer and with a more natural rhythm. Give it a shot.
One caveat: If you are reading the classics, make sure you get a good reader. There are some that are just plain boring and make you want to fall asleep like you did when you had to read that book in high school. Audible.com lets you download a brief sample to test the reader. Some readers are better than others.