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I've been reading and writing for a long time. Last year, I was introduced to Haruki Murakami.

I don't know if it's case for every writer trying to figure out their voice, but for me, once I read his novels, I clearly and determinately said, "These are exactly the kind of stories I want to tell. And these are the feelings I want to convey."

I increased my writing output, being inspired by Murakami's writings, but what I noticed, upon reading a short story I finished, is that I unconsciously copy elements of his style. Sure, it's my story, but his writings have been so influential and inspiring that I find myself constructing sentences and setting scenes in the same way he constructs his.

My questions:

  1. How to balance my goal of putting readers into the same emotional state I had experienced with Murakami without copying his style?

  2. Do I keep writing without questioning this similarity, or try to suppress it?

Please feel free to answer either of the questions.

21

Go ahead and copy his style.

Murakami is a brilliant writer who draws heavily on other writers (as does every writer, whether they realize it or not). Honestly, if you can manage to write so well that people compare you to him, you will have accomplished something amazing.

It's hard enough to write in a style similar to someone with a more mainstream approach. Writing like someone unusual is quite difficult. So difficult that you will almost certainly put your own spin on it, which is of course what you want.

Of course you don't want to copy his ideas, plots, characters, or turns of phrase. But style is more of a school of thought (like Impressionism) and not something unique to an individual, even if it's in fact unique (though no one's style is completely new and different).

I mean if you could paint like Monet, you'd do it, right? So go ahead and write like Murakami. With your own particular penstrokes.

4

I don't know Murakami, so I think it depends on how "trademark" his style is.

If it is particularly unique, I wouldn't want to be seen as an obvious imitation.

But if it is just good writing, I'd use the style. You will probably write yourself out of it anyway, using it as a starting point to develop your own style. Many published authors talk about having done this, imitating their own favorite authors every time they read something by them, but on rewrite tweaking even those to their own unique styles.

I wouldn't force a departure from it; it will probably happen naturally. Unless the guy writes in inverted syntax, like Yoda in Star Wars, chances are nobody will notice his influence.

  • I highly suggest you read 1Q84. It's brilliant. – Cyn says make Monica whole Jul 27 at 4:51
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    @Cyn I never read other authors when I'm writing, but sounds like somebody to look for next time I do. Thanks for the rec. – Amadeus-Reinstate-Monica Jul 27 at 10:17
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Good answers already, and good writing is good writing. If other writers say "I see what you did there" it doesn't need to matter any more than a magician pulling something from his sleeve.

But I wanted to throw in a counter intuitive solution : Write something in Murakami's style.

Really lay into it. More satire than homage. More parody than pastiche. If instead of Murakami you had been conscious of sounding like Wodehouse, say "What ho" every couple of lines. If writing a Sherlock Holmes story, pepper it with "Elementary, my dear Watson" (which Doyle never wrote).

That way, you'll see when something's "an obvious Murakami". You'll see what he did, but also how he did it, which will give some ideas of how to achieve a similar effect without being too close to the original.

  • To build on this idea, also consider doing stylistic or rhetorical analysis of his work (in the style of an English class homework essay, or just the note-taking you would do to construct the essay), and then try to write in his idiom. If you Google related terms you can find plenty of helpful guides to do just that. – wordsworth Jul 27 at 8:57

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