Writing Strategies from the Masters Part 2: Imitate by Sandi Somers

How many times have you read a book, loved it so much you read and reread it over and over? Have you thought, “I wish I could create such dynamic characters. I wish I could write such vivid details. I wish I could write like that.”

Yes, you can “write like that.” Not to become the author’s clone, but to sharpen and enhance your own writing style and voice.

As I mentioned in my first blog post of this series, you can start by riffing. Here’s one example from Phillip Keller, a Canadian who often wrote in triads. Each of three items begins with the same words. I riffed my own in a devotional with two sets of triads—one in a single sentence, and the other with each of the triads as a separate paragraph.

How do we produce such fragrance? If we take time in God’s Word, if we remain in Christ’s love, if we listen to the Spirit’s whisperings to us, we will experience vibrant faith.

God will give us a spirit of forgiveness and compassion to those who have hurtus.

He will give us gracious words to those who need encouragement.

He will lead us in spreading Christ’s love everywhere.

But you can go further. Not just by working harder, but by absorbing and mastering strategies and techniques of prominent authors. For example, Ernest Hemingway pioneered simpler sentences. Edith Wharton was skilled in repeating crucial information. Stephen King is a master of creating suspense.

Study great writers to absorb and master “elements of their style…the essentials of prose rhythm, character portrayal, and story development” among others.” [i] From my own experiences in imitating others, I give you guidelines that will enhance your own writing.

  • First, think of stunning and memorable books or articles you have read. What did you love and wish you could do as skillfully as they do? Read and reread to absorb their styles. Mark the spots in the book or copy what catches your attention.
  • Then take the next step and analyze. What exactly is so appealing to you? Their plots? The structure? Their vocabulary, phrases, and paragraphs? Write them out. In my special “Quotes” notebook, I’ve outlined the structure and organization of articles, noted vibrant vocabulary, and copied stunning conclusions. Writing out what was important sometimes brought to my attention strategies I hadn’t noticed on a more superficial reading.
  • Now practice. My local writers’ group members sometimes note that I need to include clearer details. To glean descriptions and vocabulary, I reread All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, whose scenes and conversations include such delicious detail. Now, from his ideas, I’m adding expanded freshness to my morning pages, journal entries, and drafts of articles.
  • A different strategy is to uncover a good model for a book or article you wish to write. This helps you organize your thinking and creates a possible structure. When I was writing articles on the lives of artists, I discovered the book Spiritual Moments with the Great Composers by Patrick Kavanaugh. In it, Kavanaugh gives us glimpses of great composers and their influences on both music and future musicians. Then he conveys a devotional thought. Just what I needed to add my own imprint to my articles!

As you practice riffing and imitating celebrated authors, you’ll discover valuable strategies. Though this practice takes effort, the rewards are great. You’ll develop new skills to refine your work and you’ll feel more confident in the success of your writing.

Note: For extra reading, here’s Nicole Bianche’s take on the same topic. https://nicolebianchi.com/powerful-writing-techniques/

[i] William Cane, Write Like the Masters: Emulating the Best of Hemingway, Faulkner, Salinger, and Others, (Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books, 2009, 4)

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1 comment

  1. Tracy Krauss says:

    Modeling oneself after those we admire is a great exercise.

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