Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Resemble That Remark



June - East Hampton,

Thomas Moran,

o/c, 1895.


I don't imagine the area looks quite like that now.






An idle question: which writer(s) do you think your personal style most resembles?


I've been re-reading some of L.E. Modesitt, Jr. and noticed some faint echoes, though I lack (among other things) his capacity for accumulative and sometimes mundane detail that manages to show his worlds and characters. As one reviewer put it ( The Denver Post on Ghost of the White Nights): "(His hero's) mild-mannered style conceals a dangerous opponent, while Modesitt's mild-mannered style conceals some wild adventure."


And an idle thought: I wonder if cliches proliferate, not so much by a lazy lack of imagination, but because an ingrained habit of describing emotions in the familiar terms we have read, rather than those we have truly and personally felt in the grip of an incident.


Take a sudden fear. In the synthesization of cause and effect, the instant is often described as "heart-stopping." The heart doesn't, of course, but there is a fractional second of cessation of all stimuli when a realization slams into the brain. The emotion, the fear, actually follows, when, for example, the infant is not in the crib or the vehicle slides irrevocably toward the cliff. The emotion might not actually emerge until much later, submerged as it sometimes is by the imperatives of action.


Of course, many readers seem to love the minute description of immediate physical response, often in cliched detail of respiratory malfunctions and sweat glands and displaced internal organs and all that. Even when the specific sensory examples are presented in original ways I'm beginning to find the collective passages that promote these sensations one by one a larger cliche.


Modesitt tends to avoid the problem by underplaying both the emotion and the action: "He lunged, and I moved, my hands reacting with patterns acquired years earlier. His arm snapped, and he cradled it, eyes watering."


A guy attacks him, so he breaks the fellow's arm. He only mentions the hero shaking when he's on his way back to his hotel -- as a simple fact without elaboration.


So whose writing do you resemble?






37 comments:

Jennifer said...

Now I wish my style resembled Terry Pratchett's, with a little Ray Bradbury and why not a sprinkling of Arundhati Roy thrown in; but I have no idea, to tell you the truth, lol.
I think that's probably one of the things you can't see yourself - you're just too close.
:-)

Sam

StarvingWriteNow said...

I don't know. I'd like to think it's a hybrid of Hemingway and Shakespeare with a dash of Pat McManus for fun. But really, I guess my writing resembles... me.

Happy Monday!

Bernita said...

Ray Bradbury - yum!
I guess people are more inclined to speak of "voice" rather than "style" these days, Sam.

Perhaps I should re-phrase it to: "who do people say your style resembles," Beth.

Suzanne Perazzini said...

I have different styles depending on what genre I'm writing. I would like to think my last ms had a dash of Jodi Piccoult to a teaspoon of Sue Monk Kidd, but several I have written are pure Wilbur Smith, even set in Africa. I do a bit more soul stuff than he does and character growth but the adventure and action is all there. Wow, I had never thought of any of this until you asked the question. Thanks.

writtenwyrdd said...

I am not sure whose writing mine resembles, Bernita. I'm an aspirant to be a writer like Gene Wolfe with his poetic turns of phrase.

ChrisEldin said...

Great post!!
Now that I've 'freed' myself from trying to be politically correct, I think my style is closest to Raold Dahl. That is my humor to a tee. I LOVE him!
:-)

Bernita said...

True, styles can vary according to genre, Suzanne.

Written, I think all styles are improved by "poetic turns of phrase."

A good one, Chris! One of my kids adored his stuff.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Right now I'm doing my damndest to channel Neil Gaiman.

Bernita said...

Hee, SS!
The medium is the message...

Ric said...

I like to think Stephen King for ease of reading, though description tends to Nicholas Sparks. But, heck, who knows?
Florid doesn't work for me.

December/Stacia said...

Yeah, I'm embarrassed to say who, when I'm really moving and feel things are going really well, I sometimes imagine I very faintly resemble.

Sorry, can't play this one. But I will say it's a dude.

Lisa said...

I wish I could say, but I'm still developing. There's nobody I consciously try to emulate, because I admire such a diverse group. It would be lovely to one day hear, "you remind me of ______".

Robyn said...

I'm with Suzanne- depends on the genre. I can see a little bit (tiny, mind you) of Austen in my historicals.

Bernita said...

~nods at Ric~
Now that you mention it, I can see King.

No need, December. Just thought it was a curious thing.

"There's nobody I consciously try to emulate"
Nor do I, Lisa.
Similarities may evolve from compatible world views or personalities as much as from training or deliberate immitation.

Bernita said...

Dear me. "imitation."

Bernita said...

Delightful, Robyn!

raine said...

...And wasn't I planning to blog about style this week, lol...

I think mine is a conglomeration, a mish-mash of traditional (in descriptions) and contemporary (in dialogue).
If there's a single author it resembles, I can't put my finger on them. I'd love to, though--might learn something.
(Love the painting and breaking arm description).

Charles Gramlich said...

That's a tough one. I sort of thought, personally, that my writing resembled Dean Koontz a bit in "Cold in the Light," but that it resembles more Ken Bulmer in the Taleran books. I hope any resemblance isn't so strong as to be noticable, though.

I remember when I first started writing things as a teenager. My style then resemebled whoever I was reading at the time. I don't think that's true now.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Raine.
There's no earthy reason why you still can't!


"My style then resemebled whoever I was reading at the time."
Charles, I have this really long pathetic poem a la Gibran from that era.

Rick said...

I'm in the club too - my writing certainly varies by genre, but I can't really say who I sound like, or even quite who I'd like to sound like!

spyscribbler said...

Some bizarre sort of mixture, I think! I ahve no idea. I have been using a little of Irving's punctuation, lately.

Bernita said...

"or even quite who I'd like to sound like!"

Now there, Rick! That's an ever harder thing to decide!

It's funny, Natasha.Seems a lot of us are the Ulysses types ( "... a part of all that I have met.")
Made me wonder if... when agents ask for comparisons they want style comparisons rather than plot approaches.

writtenwyrdd said...

In a discussion by my critique group today, one fellow said, "style is the order in which you deliver information." I thought that was a very interesting take on it; becasue I think style is the manner in which you deliver information, which is a subtly different thing. It's both what and how you share info with your reader.

Bernita said...

I'm inclined toward your take on it, Written.

BernardL said...

I don't have a clue, Bernita, but I write in a manner I have no trouble rereading. If I didn't, the repetitious editing would have stopped me a long time ago. :)

SzélsőFa said...

When I was in highschool and we studied various poets and writers I did notice that my style changed from time to time - according to writers and poets I liked.
As for now?
I don't know.
There are many great authors I admire, incl. Wass Albert, József Attila (a Hungarian writer and a H. poet) and among contemporary English language authors I like M.L'Engle, and M. Atwood. Among classical authors I enjoy O. Wilde - these were the ones that came into my mind right now.

SzélsőFa said...

But I see now that the discussion have taken a bit of a different turn:
I write what I write and when I see elements that strongly remind me any special writer I duly remove or adjust them.

Steve Malley said...

TO be honest, I have enough trouble trying to make my style resemble my own.

About the nicest compliment I ever got was when the Tiny Dynamo said (with disgust), "You write like that James Lee Burke guy and that other one, that MacDonald. Why can't you do romantic comedy?"

I walked on air that day...

The Anti-Wife said...

Though I strive to resemble the biggies,
The Brontes, and Austens and Christies,
Too often alas
My work lacks class
And I sound way too much like Miss Piggy!

Bernita said...

I don't either. There is someone - your neat habit of sliding in a double-take but I can't think of the writer. It's clear and clean, Bernard, that's for sure.

You've picked some of the best, Szelsofa.Don't be too quick to remove those "echoes."

"You write like that James Lee Burke guy and that other one, that MacDonald" - I would think so, Steve!

Does NOT lack class, AW - but that is cute!

cindy said...

gosh, i haven't a clue. it's like asking me what celebrity i look like. one person in class mentioned amy tan, but i wonder if that has more to do with the asian subject matter?

it's been a looong time since i've read tan, so i can't say. but somehow, i doubt it.

Whirlochre said...

I have no idea who I resemble, but I'm alert to moments of esqueness after reading things I like. Reminds me of being a kid and picking up funny lines and turns of phrase off people only to discover they didn't quite work whenever I said them myself. I suppose it takes time to subsume flavours of words till you can utter them with a distinctive squelch — and I say this only because squelch is Today's In-Vogue word.

Most likely, I resemble someone I've never even heard of, and when I discover I've already 'been done', I'll be mortified — unless I'm leading a double life.

Bernita said...

Still, it's a nice comparison, Cindy.(Don't think I've read her.)

"Squelch" is a lovely onomatopoeiac word, Whirl!
Resemblance is no way implies that one's work is derivative. There are schools and styles.

Scott from Oregon said...

Gee, I dunno....

I relate to this though--"He lunged, and I moved, my hands reacting with patterns acquired years earlier. His arm snapped, and he cradled it, eyes watering."

I have to confess knowing and using this technique to deal with a few miscreants...

Though I prefer flirting with girls...

Barbara Martin said...

When I had a second draft of my first manuscript finished, a work colleague after she had read the first three chapters said the description reminded her of Wilbur Smith's detailed descriptions in "River God". This prompted me to go out and buy this book. After reading three pages in I stopped upon realizing the author's words had seemingly disappeared while I experienced sensory imagery of an Egyptian street bazaar with the dust, the people, the animals and the heat of the day. My writing couldn't be like this, could it? Perhaps it is, and it might be a case of my not being able to see the trees for the forest.

Chumplet said...

I'm afraid I'll have to leave it up to my readers to tell me who I resemble. I haven't a clue.

As I begin more projects (have to finish a few) I find myself experimenting with so many different genres. I think the Gemini in me will come out. I may have to adopt a few more pen names.

Bernita said...

You might like Modesitt, Scott.

A wonderful and evocative comparison, Barbara!

Sandra, it's certainly hard to see similarities oneself.