Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Finding what works

Have you ever written fan fiction? A pastiche? Tell us about that. If not, did you start out writing derivative fiction before finding your own voice? And you can tell us about that, too.

by Dietrich

I’ve never taken a popular character from an original work and created a story from that. And I haven’t purposefully tried to imitate another writer’s style, although there are plenty of authors who’ve inspired me to write. I like to make up my world and characters, yet the new book I’m working on now is based on a true story that intrigued me, and it sure feels different from writing pure fiction. It takes more research to make it accurate, getting how these people thought, behaved and how they spoke. And there’s a good mix of fiction in there too. In the end, whatever gets a writer inspired to write a story, or whatever gets a new writer working to find their own voice and style is probably worth a shot. 

It’s not automatic. Like anything, it takes practice to become good at it.
I think the most important thing for a writer is to find their own voice so they can tell their own story, and that takes some work. I started out writing short stories, and aside from my love for reading short stories, it allowed me to play around with genre and style, working at it to find what best suited me, long before I tackled something novel length. And after writing a lot of shorts, I finally did stumble on what worked. And from there, I just played on those strengths and kept going.

In a Time interview, Elmore Leonard was asked if he had any advice for young writers. “I would say just start writing. You’ve got to write every day. Copy someone that you like if you think that perhaps could become your sound too. I did that with Hemingway, and I thought I was writing just like Hemingway. Then all of a sudden it occurred to me, he didn't have a sense of humor. I don't know anything he's written that's funny.”

And I know I’m not alone in believing that reading is very important for a writer. I try to choose books that will inspire me, those novels that have me shaking my head at how good they are, those writers with soul in their words.

“It’s inspiring to read great writing. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out.” — William Faulkner 

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates 

We’ve all got our own idea of what’s good, and a writer has to know where they want their writing to go. To make it work for me, there has to be a drive and a love for what I’m writing. There’s an excitement to starting with a single idea for a scene and seeing the world it turns into, all the while characters are growing and plots and subplots are taking shape, and twists and turns keep coming as I work on the story. What could be better than that?

4 comments:

Brenda Chapman said...

Good post Dietrich - some worthwhile advice.

Susan C Shea said...

I'm with Faulkner. Reading is the best teacher/mentor/guide. And that means, I'm with you, Dietrich!

RJ Harlick said...

Love your quotes. Very apt. Good post, Dietrich.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks, Susan, Brenda and Robin.