Tuesday 1 June 2010

Have you ever tried to write like someone else?

While studying Romanticism at University, one of my assignments was to write an ode in the same vein as one of the amazing Romantic poets of the 17th Century. I chose John Keats, and used 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' as my guide. The amazing coincidence here is that Keats produced most of his odes during April and May of 1819, and I too wrote this poem in April, while getting myself settled on a Greek island called Ithaca (the home of Ulysses, aka Odysseus). What a perfect time and place to be assigned such a task, hey?

I still have this 'ode' of mine, called, The Pebbled Shores of Ellada ('Ellada' means 'Greece' in Greek, by the way). It doesn't quite conform to all the rules, but I do think it has, although slightly more modern, a similar Romantic feel about it. If you've never read John Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn, you can here.

Anyhoo, here's my ode:

Along the pebbled shores of Ellada
I let the sun engrave my skin
As though a Greek God has now possessed me
I tread its land like I'm cursed with its sin
Floating somewhere amidst the sea mist
Is a veiled beggar from the past
Haunting every solitary step I take
Waiting for me to rebuild his mast

One foot on this beloved soil
I become a willing prisoner
Amongst the blues of the sky and the depths of the sea
My body and soul will never be set free
The olive groves and the grape vines
Entice me to intrude their sacred grounds
But I will eat their oils and drink their wines
Until a place to dwell has been found

I have now become embodied
In a certain type of cell
Instinctively invented by my heart
Or concocted by an infinite spell
Yes my love, I must look quite sad
You say that all I do is weep
But sometimes alone in my own abyss
I pray for bliss in my sleep

The tears don't pour just from my eyes sweetheart
If I perhaps try to escape
And it's not only my heart that tears apart
When I must leave this bewitching place
There is a mysterious power hidden here
That keeps me safe from harm
I am invincible from the eerie fear
Yet my revelations remain so calm

When I sleep at night under the secretive stars
Sometimes my dreams come alive
Will these words I write all day and night
Through the centuries survive?
Will the place I love through thick skin and bone
Live as letters on a page?
Or will they dissolve beneath this holy earth
Like mind and body after old age?

When the summer smell wafts through my window
It stirs a fated movement
Not of birds and bees and flowers and grass
But of passions, desire and sentiment
This smell sparks a fire inside the heart of my soul
A burning plea for creation
For music, for dance, for love
But most of all, just for this sensation

The streets are so quiet this time of year
Yet nature is in full bloom
And the roaring waves of the vicious sea
No longer entice temper and doom
Sometimes I find this sound of silence
Encompasses me like a child
To spare me the pain of an evil man
An unknown force; an invader of land

But non-existence on the other hand
Could enable an abundance of delight
As I sit alone gathered in my thoughts
My heart – out it pours, without a fight
Like a mountain of rich lava
Its force so red and strong
Or a steam train on a tainted journey
Where its coals last forever long

I know deep inside my heart that I must trust
I will do good, I will say no wrong
At the end of this day I have sung the most beautiful song
Oh! - I have waited for this moment so long
In this life I live for only this:
If passion can reach your heart
Just like it did mine
We will live in eternal bliss

Have you ever tried to mimic someone else's writing style, even if not in poetry, in prose? How successful were you at 'being' someone else? Did you find that you couldn't help putting a little of yourself in there? I sure couldn't.


  1. Wow. I'm in awe. Poetry is not my strong suit, and it would've taken me FOREVER to write that.

    I don't consciously copy anyone's style, but I think the books we read flavor what we write in much the same way hanging around someone with an accent seasons our speech.

  2. Nice job. Sure, writing like another...but difficult to exclude your own voice. It is a great exercise, though. This reminds me of the caution we must use as writers to not create a 'little me' within one of our characters.

  3. Awesome! I'm not very good at that either. I've found that trying to emulate anyone bu me just doesn't work.

  4. Loved the poem Jessica but for me to write like someone else? I got trouble writing as myself.


  5. 'A burning plea for creation
    For music, for dance, for love...' Yes, you captured the Romantic element well. Enjoyed this.

  6. This was beautiful! Very good job. And I can't write like other authors however if I'm reading them while writing, I tend to plagirize, which is why I don't read while I write anymore.

    What kind of grade did you get on this Ode?

  7. That was lovely Jessica, thanks.

    I haven't purposely tried to imitate other writers but I do find that recent reads can influence my voice. A little bit is not a big deal but too much can be a big problem.

  8. I tried to write like Gerald Murnane once. You may have heard of him, but it's unlikely. He's Australian but not well known though in years to come when we are all dead, I suspect that his writing will be remembered best of all.

  9. Love the poem.

    My challenge is trying NOT to write like someone else. I'm getting better at it over the years as I grow more confident in my own voice.

  10. Wow, I dont know much of his work, but this poem was so brilliant! You did a great job as to writting a poem, that I can say with a 100% confidence!

    So Keats is unknown to me but I have tried to write like one of my favourite authors of all time, and one of the best storytellers I have ever seen: Susanne Clarke.

    She narrates fantasy like Jane Austen would. And it works so well, in sooo many levels! I love her.

  11. I used to try to copy the voice of other writers but it's hard to fight your own. I think you can somewhat copy the style of other writers but an exact copy is difficult. Your poem is beautiful by the way.


  12. I think we pick up a lot from reading other authors but your authentic voice should come out in your own writing.

    I've never tried to write like anyone else when it comes to style but I do pick up on how others set their scenes, introduce problems and such. I say, learn as much as you can from others then apply it to your own style and words.

  13. There's tons of YA writers I admire, but the only one I write like is me. To try otherwise would spell disaster!

  14. That was a beautiful poem! :) Poetry is not my strong point as far as writing it goes, but I enjoy reading it.
    I don't know if I've ever tried to copy an author's style, but I know that my prose is always a bit more superfluous and poetic after I read Shakespeare. It takes like a week for the effect to wear off, too.

  15. Great poem! I'm impressed! I've written poetry, but nothing ever so long. Beautiful job!

    I don't think I can mimic another writer very well. I've never tried, but I've read fan-fic and most often can't read much of it because the characters feel nothing like the originals. And I think this is because the voices just aren't the same. Even if two authors have similar voices, I don't think they could be exactly the same. And, like others, I try to avoid sounding like other writers, but try to be myself with my own voice.

  16. Very nice. I'm no poet either, but it's fun to read.

    I haven't tried to copy someone else's style specifically, but I have made the effort to write in a style that's not mine. Not so easy.

  17. Nicely done. I have barely discovered my own writing style so imitation would be comical on my part.

  18. Ooooh, great ode!

    I wrote a short story for my creative writing course at university this year, and it was exactly in the style of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Well, at least, I did my best. I was amazed by how easy falling into that voice was, probably because I knew and loved it so well.

  19. Kudos for doing this! I would've probably gotten brain hemorrhage from thinking so hard. Keep up the great work!

  20. Well you certainly pulled it off flawlessly. It seems this style realy suits you, are you have an exceptional skill for imitation. I agree with you though, often when I'm blocked I'll start a piece by mimicking another writer, and then eventually this helps me to ease back into my own style.

    "Will these words I write all day and night
    Through the centuries survive?"


  21. AlliAllo ~
    I once wrote an essay that was somewhat in the style of Thomas Wolfe. I had not deliberately set out to mimic him, but I had been reading quite a bit of Wolfe at that time and so I think some of his flamboyant, verbose style just kind of naturally crept into what I was writing. I was fairly pleased with the results back then, but probably discarded the essay many years later.

    About ten years after that, I also wrote a short story that I felt contained some elements one might find in something similar penned by Mark Twain. "The Notorious Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County" was essentially the sort of thing I had in mind while writing. Although my story had nothing to do with frogs; it was about old goats (as in "old people").

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

  22. I've done this with poetry, too! But I couldn't help resorting to my own style and voice. Trying to mimic others is actually a great way to find one's own writing voice.

    Great poem, btw! And I love Keats! He was already brilliant at such a young age. I can't help but wonder what he would've written if he hadn't died so young.

  23. wow, so powerful!!

    i think perhaps subconsciously we take a little bit from all of our favorite authors. the more we read a particular person, the more their writing style may rub off on us. at least i think so?

    i know for sure that whenever i finish a jane austen novel, for example, i ALWAYS wish i could speak so articulately -- and with a british accent to boot!


  24. Piedmont writer, I only got a C+. I was SOOOO angry. I thought I'd nailed it ...

  25. Very nice! I love the word choice and lyricism of your ode!

    The only time I have intentionally written like someone else is when I'm writing a book review - where I try to write the review in the style of the author. Really, can't help having some of my own voice in there though. :)

  26. Great poem. I've never tried to copy anyone's writing style. I'm not sure how successful I'd be. heehee.

  27. Very NICE ode! I had a poetry writing class in college and we had several people (though I don't remember who, at all) we were supposed to 'write like'.

    It seems to me the point is trying out a lot of different things, helps us hone in on our own particular strengths... I can still do it for poems, possibly because I never got my bearings as a GOOD poet. I have a much harder time anymore, with mimicking longer stuff. I think my voice has just got its solid footing now.

  28. Wow. That's amazing. I haven't tried to write like anyone else, but there's a long list of people I wish I could emulate.

  29. I enjoyed your ode! No, I haven't tried to copy any style, mainly because I get inspired by something I've read and head right to the keyboard, only for it to come out nothing at all like the model. My authorial fingerprint is hopelessly grooved.

    Hope your week's off to a great start!!

  30. Pretty credible effort there, Jessica. Many, many years ago I recall writing a sonnet ala Shakespeare and a King James version Psalm. I recall that I used to try to emulate prose of John Barth. I might post some of these some day.

    Now I don't conciously try copy anyone's style.

    Tossing It Out

  31. I have only a passing familiarity with any poet other than Byron, but this is gorgeous and evocative. Wow!

    Can't say I've ever tried to write like anyone else. I've been too busy searching for my own voice.

  32. I sometimes word-copy authors. I'll read a page or two and then try to mimic their manuscript.

    It helps establish your voice, but only do it with authors you like. I've done this with King, Koontz, McCarthy, Vonnegut, Bradbury, McCammon... maybe more, I forget, but those are the big ones.

    I practically rewrote books by King and Bradbury.

    And now I have their bad habits!

    Gads. Be careful what you learn.

    - Eric

  33. I've never tried to copy someone's style beyond when I was learning certain poetry forms at university. I do, however, notice an influence of whatever I'm reading at the time, so I try to be sure and read authors that I think write better than I do!

  34. Try and mimic the trappings of another genre and/or author? Moi? Why I would never think of such a thing. : þ
    Joking set aside, I find it to be tremendous fun. And far from "not being able to help putting some of myself" into it, I gleefully inserted it there with a steel mallet. Not much enjoyment to be had just aping something or someone else. : j

    Thanks for sharing your ode, it's an elegant piece on its own.
    The reason you got scored that way was probably because of the way you strayed from the model ie "doesn't quite conform to all the rules. Perhaps you do the piece a disservice explaining its context, it works better without it. : j

  35. I don't think I could mimic another writing style at this point - though my earlier years were one exercise after another in that very phenomenon!! And yanno what? We get to hear YOUR voice in the interview at my blog tomorrow, lol. Looking forward to hosting you!!


“I'm using my art to comment on what I see. You don't have to agree with it.” ~John Mellencamp

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