There are some pundits who suggest a new writer first mimics, or outright copies, the styles of their favorite authors. Okay, that sounds like a plausible explanation in how to acquire your own style. So who was your favorite authors? And how closely did you begin your writing career in copying them?

Or did you?

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Comment by Benjamin Sobieck on March 20, 2009 at 11:57am
It's true, B.R. Hunter Thompson's genius was exceeded only by his eccentricity. Since the 70s, he had talked about wanting his ashes shot out of a cannon out at his ranch in Colorado. I believe it took place next to a giant six-fingered hand statue sticking out of the ground.

Thompson started his writing career mimicking Hemingway. Sadly, he ended it that way, too.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on March 19, 2009 at 3:45pm
Why would someone's remains be shot out of a cannon? That brings up vivid images!!
Comment by Benjamin Sobieck on March 19, 2009 at 12:32pm
B.R. Stateham :)

I think you've stumbled on a dirty secret. Everyone starts out as a fraud. A new writer (and I mean newwriter) needs a direction. So he/she begins by telling someone else's story ("Little Red Riding Hood," for example). From there a voice can be developed, one that tell the same story in a different way.

Then it's on to branching into a writer's own stories, but using elements of someone else as a model ("Little Red Riding Hood Goes to the City"). The final phase is taking everything the writer has developed and realize it as a separate entity ("Evil City: One Woman's Journey").

For me, it would be Hunter S. Thompson. He was not much of a fiction writer (or was he?), but he convinced me to get into journalism. If his remains had not been shot out of a cannon, I would've thanked him personally.
Comment by John McFetridge on March 19, 2009 at 12:28pm
Elmore Leonard, Raymond Carver, Hemingway. I'm seeing a trend.

And also people I know. My brother's been a cop for 39 years and I always find it interesting when his speech changes slightly from telling a story to giving testimony, the little details become more accurate, exact times and so on.

I do think that writing in another writer's style can be a great lesson - musicians learn by playing other people's songs.

As for your question, I'd say I began my writing career copying those other writers very closely. And I guess I still do because I'm not much interested in style for style sake. What I want is to get the characters and their voices as "right" as I can and not have any authorial voice at all. So, that may mean sounding a lot like Raymond Carver and George V. Higgins, so be it.
Comment by I. J. Parker on March 19, 2009 at 6:46am
Robert Van Gulik. But I learned that that wouldn't work for me and rewrote two novels. The main change was that I needed to get into the head of the protagonist and develop his character. Later I drifted even further away.
Comment by Dana King on March 19, 2009 at 5:54am
Raymond Chandler. My first handful of projects were set today, but definitely retro in their writing. My recent projects haven't lent themselves to that style, but I'd love to do it again if I had a chance. Not mimicking as much as before, but I still love that kind of voice.
Comment by Pepper Smith on March 19, 2009 at 5:06am
I began writing fiction when I was 9. If I was mimicking anyone, I have no idea who after all this time.

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