Is writing spoofs actually a good way to learn a style?

Astro Pen

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I'm just throwing this idea out for discussion. I haven't refined it! It just came to me whilst sitting in the bath.

We have all probably spent time analysing our favourite writers, trying to work out the essence of their style but I wonder if we might do better putting down the magnifying glass and simply writing parodies of their work. Going for their feel and texture organically rather than analytically?
I don't necessarily mean comedic, just to try on their voice, to kind of 'act' them as writers.
Poe, Heinlein, Wyndham, Ballard, whoever.
 

sule

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It's worth a shot, in my opinion, especially if you're dead set on mimicking that author's exact style. I've listened to podcasts where some authors talk about typing out a page or so of an author whose style they want to emulate in their own prose to get their mind into that space before getting to work. I would worry, if an author hasn't written enough to establish their own voice that they might just end up sounding like a carbon copy of the author whose style they are borrowing.
 

Steve Harrison

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I did that deliberately with my first published novel, aiming not so much for the style, but certainly for the 'atmosphere' and 'flavour' of my three favorite seafaring authors, CS Forester, Dudley Pope and Alexander Kent. I thought that grand classic adventure feel would be interesting for a violent seafaring time travel action thriller, although a few readers have said the writing reminded them of Patrick O'Brien, so I don't know where I went wrong! :giggle:

I'm sure I have been influenced by my favourite writers in my other novels, and I do see some of their techniques creeping in at times, but I also feel they have helped me refine my own style rather than mimic theirs.
 

Wayne Mack

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For me, studying an author to the extent that I could mimic his or her style seems to be way too much work. There are only a few authors that have led me to read a lot of their catalogues. Even when I now go back and reread their stories, I am far more likely to notice something that interrupted my reading flow than the things that maintained it. Going through a writer's work in a critical analysis mode in order to learn to copy it just does not seem enjoyable or much fun. I think I just prefer to make my own mistakes instead.
 

Astro Pen

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For me, studying an author to the extent that I could mimic his or her style seems to be way too much work.
That's what I'm saying.
I have never copied anybody's style and would likely only try it writing a short story for fun.
( a thread idea there perhaps :giggle:)
However there are a lot of people who say they "want to write like" X or Y.
So for them a less analytical approach might be constructive.
I guess in the same way that bands might want to sound like Genesis or The Byrds.
So I am suggesting that parodying might be a useful tool for teasing out qualities you like.
 

therapist

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I think the word you want is pastiche instead of parody. But sounds like a great idea in theory. I would do it myself but I would likely find it too tough and some authors would prove too hard to identify at the micro level. They would have to be very distinctive writers, right?
 

HareBrain

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I like the idea, though I'm too lazy to do much about it. I've only ever knowingly written two style imitations, DH Lawrence (at school) and 19thC Gothic, both for comic effect. (I'm not sure you could do either of those for anything else.) But after a couple of years of writing, I realised I was unconsciously imitating Tolkien's style, and it took me a couple more years to get away from that.

Where I can see this being useful, if you get good enough at it, is to differentiate style between POV characters, which is quite hard to do. You could decide that character A was Tolkien, and character B was Hemingway, etc, and if you already had lots of practice in their styles, you could slip into them quite easily.
 

Toby Frost

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I think it is. You quickly learn the distinctive features of a writer, which is useful not just for imitating them but for analysing your own work. I think pastiche is something I'm fairly good at as a writer (not sure why) and a few have sneaked into the Space Captain Smith books. Of course, some authors are more distinctive than others: it would be easier to write a shopping list in the style of Lovecraft than Asimov.
 

Ian Fortytwo

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I try doing this when writing poetry, especially contemporary poetry as that is more likely to win competitions. Of course you have to be very careful not to show the exact style, otherwise you will give yourself away.
 

tinkerdan

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Way back in the 60's I typed out a copy of an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel from cover to cover and that was pretty instructive.
Just so you know--I put his name on it. I'm not sure what happened to that other than It was in a manila envelope and back then I might have been living in a mobile home park.
 

Wayne Mack

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Check out your writing with this
Who knows it could confirm your theory.
Not sure what this says about my writing, but I tried three samples and got back:

Ian Fleming
Harry Harrison
Mario Puzo

Just for grins, I re-entered the same text chunks and got the same results. I then tried a longer entry for the 'Mario Puzo' style story and it came back as Anne Rice.
 

HareBrain

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I put in three different texts: third person past tense (YA), first present (non-YA), and first past (same book but in what I thought was a very different character voice). I'd have said they were in three different styles. All came back as Agatha Christie.
 

AnyaKimlin

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I find writing fan fiction or mimicking author's style improves my writing and my ability to produce a story more than any other method. It takes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to try new things I wouldn't think about otherwise. It also highlights my strengths and weaknesses. There's no greater buzz than realising you do something as well as someone you consider a great writer.

I've recently written stories in the style of Samuel Beckett, Chekhov, Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde. They were really successful.

Exercises in Style by Raymond Queneau is one of my favourite writing books - it has exercises about trying out lots of different styles with the same paragraphs.
 

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