Saturday, January 26, 2013

Emulate. Don't imitate.

So I was planning on finishing up the Characters on Couches session with the still unnamed Immortal (yes there's a part three, remember, we don't know his name yet.), but I finished reading The Hobbit (again) at work the other day and came upon a thought.

There a quite a few well-known authors, right? J.R.R Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games, I know, she's more recent), Stephanie Meyer (don't get me started, I don't like her either), Stephen King, and many many others.

Most people who call themselves writers, read a lot. It's something like a prerequisite. I've read all of the aforementioned authors books. Some of them, I haven't read all of Stephen Kings, but I've read some, and I never could finish The Silmarillion, but I digress. I respect each and every one of them. Yes, even Stephanie Meyer.

Not only do we know the well-known, but we all have our personal favorites. Mine has been, for the longest time, R.A. Salvatore. I *love* the Legend of Drizzt books. I want to own them all someday. My father has almost all of them, and I think I started reading them around grade school age. I also have more recent favorites as well, such as S.M Boyce, whose books I have reviewed here, and Leanna Renee Hieber whose books I plan to reread and review here as well.

Anyway, what do these have to do with the title of this post you ask? Well, for new writers especially, some often start out trying to imitate their favorites. Or the classics. I thought about this while reading The Hobbit. Don't get me wrong, it's some brilliant story telling, but you know what? That sort of telling wouldn't sell at all in this day and age. All through the book, the narrative seems intent on keeping a distance between the reader and the events happening on the page. We were given a little insight into a few of the characters, but nothing that really would make someone emotionally attached. Even the three dwarves that died (even though they are my favorite dwarves in the movie), I felt like I didn't care. (Though I just know I'll bawl my eyes out in the movie).

But that's not my point. Imitating may be good practice, but it will, obviously, never sell. If someone can look at your work and say "S/he was just copying so-and-so", it won't be viewed as good as or any better than, the original.

However, emulating, is another thing entirely. The definition of emulate I am using is as follows. "to try to equal or excell; imitate with effort to equal or surpass" Emphasis on surpassing. So my advice, if I may be allowed to give it, would be to not try to write like your favorite authors, but write to surpass them. Don't look to be their equals, look to be their betters. However, you will not get it on your first try, you may never reach that point. But, how can you know if you don't try? 

In trying your hardest, for whatever reason, you will find your true self, and you will develop your own style and means of writing, so give it your all, and don't hold back. 

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