Saturday, May 18, 2013

Who Do You Write Like?

A writer friend asked my opinion in assessing her writing style. Not that I'm any expert, but we've both been asked the question "who do you write like or what book is your story similar to?" Yeah, I know.  The first time I heard the question, I was tempted to laugh too.  Like, really? How would I know?  I don't think anyone sets out to write "like" anyone, but I know that sometimes it happens. And when I took that meme test that made the internet rounds a few years ago, it said I wrote like David Foster Wallace.  Well.  If that were true, then things might be a bit different for me, but whatever.

Back to my friend.  She's preparing a proposal that she's been asked to put together and that's a very good thing.  So, I started thinking, which sometimes doesn't lead to good places but you know, I finally got to a reasonable outcome.  The roundabout way to assess similarity in my mind, came from thinking about writers who write different stories (single titles, I guess) but that bear a distinctive mark.

 The simple and easy example came in the form of one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman.  If you've read Coraline or the Graveyard Book or Neverwhere, then you'll know that Himself really loves to build alternative worlds that exist right along with our everyday and mundane lives.  This trait transcends mediums too because if you've seen any of the Doctor Who episodes he's penned (The Doctor's Wife and A Nightmare in Silver) then you'll see the common thread there.  Also as an aside, I see the same phenomenon with George R.R. Martin in the episodes he's penned for the HBO series of Game of Thrones like Blackwater and most recently, The Bear and the Maiden Fair.  The episodes seem more like compact novels and are sometimes paced slower,  instead of the usual bouncing about of the characters that we've come to expect in serial television.

But the point I want to make is that it's hard to assess similarity in writing style because everyone brings something unique to the way they tell a story. Jane Austen shines a light on the foibles of her characters in the way she utilizes language and the period details.  Maugerite Duras does the same thing by stripping the language down.  So, the best guess of who's style you might emulate might be found in the broader aspects like description, world-building, and characterizations.

Who do you write like?

1 comment:

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