What is the method that some writers use to emulate those before them? How do they emulate the way that their models sound? Do they write out their thoughts first and afterward revise them until they achieve the sound of their model? Or do they practice by writing something in the exact metrical form of their model (speaking of prose, not poetry)? What methods have been used in to past to accomplish this?


The most important aspect is to hear the voice. Some writers are easier to emulate than others.

John Grisham, for example, is an old man from the south. Once you pick up the voice you then study his exposition style. Forget all the advice and rules from the 'How to' - John Grisham does a lot of 'telling'.

BILLY RAY COBB was the younger and smaller of the two rednecks. At twenty-three he was already a three-year veteran of the state penitentiary at Parchman. Possession, with intent to sell. He was a lean, tough little punk who had survived prison by somehow maintaining a ready supply of drugs that he sold and sometimes gave to the blacks and the guards for protection. In the year since his release he had continued to prosper, and his small-time narcotics business had elevated him to the position of one of the more affluent rednecks in Ford County. He was a businessman, with employees, obligations, deals, everything but taxes. Down at the Ford place in Clanton he was known as the last man in recent history to pay cash for a new pickup truck. Sixteen thousand cash, for a custom-built, four-wheel drive, canary yellow, luxury Ford pickup. The fancy chrome wheels and mudgrip racing tires had been received in a business deal. The rebel flag hanging across the rear window had been stolen by Cobb from a drunken fratern ity boy at an Ole Miss football game. The pickup was Billy Ray’s most prized possession. He sat on the tailgate drinking a beer, smoking a joint, watching his friend Willard take his turn with the black girl.

Willard was four years older and a dozen years slower. He was generally a harmless sort who had never been in serious trouble and had never been seriously employed. Maybe an occasional fight with a night in jail, but nothing that would distinguish him. He called himself a pulpwood cutter, but a bad back customarily kept him out of the woods. He had hurt his back working on an offshore rig somewhere in the Gulf, and the oil company paid him a nice settlement, which he lost when his ex-wife cleaned him out. His primary vocation was that of a part-time employee of Billy Ray Cobb, who didn’t pay much but was liberal with his dope. For the first time in years Willard could always get his hands on something. And he always needed something. He’d been that way since he hurt his back.

She was ten, and small for her age. She lay on her elbows, which were stuck and bound together with yellow nylon rope. Her legs were spread grotesquely with the right foot tied tight to an oak sapling and the left to a rotting, leaning post of a long-neglected fence. The ski rope had cut into her ankles and the blood ran down her legs. Her face was bloody and swollen, with one eye bulging and closed and the other eye half open so she could see the other white man sitting on the truck. She did not look at the man on top of her. He was breathing hard and sweating and cursing. He was hurting her.

  • He also prefers to 'bring things into focus'. He has no desire to make extremely clear. You need to read on to discover exactly what's going on. As a reader you need to put snippets of information together to confirm your suspicions.

" . . .watching his friend Willard take his turn with the black girl." - Take his turn doing what?

  • Grisham lets you stew for a while.

"She was ten, and small for her age." Yes - but what's going on?

"She did not look at the man on top of her. He was breathing hard and sweating and cursing. He was hurting her." - Oh right, that's disgusting! What bastards!

  • At no point does Grisham say, "The two rednecks were taking turns raping the little black girl."

So, you hear the voice and recognise exposition style, and follow from there.


Well, I don't have as long an answer as Surtsey, but I'll tell you what works for me. I analyze the text and see what the author does and jot it down/make mental notes. Then when I write, I use the things I noticed to shape my work. I can't emulate someone else, and I don't think you should either. Be your own voice. There's only one John Grisham, and there's only one you.

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