I really like this question. I might change it slightly to ask,
"How might a person write in another style?"
It is well accepted that painters and artists in the visual media will :
- at times
- for learning purposes...
Copy The Masters
Now, this will drive people crazy because they will instantly think I am talking about plagiarism (at the least) and breaking copyright laws (in the worst).
I am not talking about that at all. I am actually speaking about :
Learning The Music Of Writing
Have you ever noticed that when you read, the words make noises inside your head? The best authors know this is true and :
- edit their works to make the sounds the best they can be
- manipulate their sentences to create cadences for the reader
- edit so sentences are easiest to read (so the images play out on the movie-screen of the reader's mind, instead of lying flat on the page as words.
How Can We Learn the Music / Style / Voice of Writing?
Is it even possible to learn other styles? Of course it is. Journalistic style is different from a poetry so there are obvious differences. But you have to take note of those differences so you can create styles yourself.
A Way Forward
I have used this method myself and it can be quite fun to investigate voice and style. Here's what you can try -- yes it is work, but it is well worth it.
- Find a book you like.
- Read only the first page.
- Determine the over all feel of the page (shocking, happy, discovery,
action, etc) What sense do you get from reading the page?
- Count the words in each sentence and write them above each sentence
in the book.
- Find every verb in that first page and underline each one.
- Find every noun on the page and circle it.
- Find each adjective and put a light squiggly line through it. Read the sentence again without the adjective and see if the sentence works.
- Find each adverb and see if you can create a stronger verb to be
used in place of the adverb and verb you find. For example if you
find angrily picked up replace it with grabbed.
- Finally, and most importantly, take a shot at writing
something that sounds quite similar to the original authors. This
allows you to see what great writing might sound like. I call this
shadow-writing. All the great artists in the pasts (Da Vinci,
Michelangelo, etc.) copied the masters before them to learn. You
must do the same.
A Very Nice Writing Practice and Warm-up
Here's an example of specifically how I've done this myself. Hopefully you'll see that you can do it too and it'll create a great new writing practice for you.
Here's my example using one of my all-time favorite novel beginnings, The Partner, by John Grisham. I've shortened up the example as to not take too long.
Finally you do your shadow-writing.
He discovered it before anyone else in the sleepy town of Philsbruck,
Minnesota had even opened their eyes for the day.
He discovered it buried under a wagon, behind Tom's house in a large field where he and Tom had ridden motorcycles, when they were younger and still friends.
Mine isn't exactly the same, but it is similar. There is some repetition. There is some mystery about what he found and who he is. You see, you begin to learn by doing this kind of deep analysis. You learn and then you transform this into your own writing.
These are specific things you can do that will make your writing an order of magnitude better and to learn style from other authors.