This will be a quick post since I’m currently in the middle of writing a 20-page term paper, but I did want to take a minute to talk about the assignment I’m working on and the value I see in it.
My form and theory class studied the novel this term, and our final paper is to imitate one author and to analyze that imitation. We write approximately ten pages of fiction that borrows* from our chosen author’s technical and stylistic decisions and then ten more pages that discusses those techniques, how they work in what we’ve written (or, perhaps, how they don’t work) and why. I chose to work with James Welch’s Fools Crow.
Now, I’ve written imitation papers before, and I have to admit I’ve always enjoyed them. There is so much for writers to learn about their own styles by studying closely someone else’s. You can look at the line level and find new ways to craft sentences. You can look at structure and find new ways to organize information. You can look at characterization and find ways to build up your own. You can look at how an author handles theme or symbolism, how dialogue is built into scenes, how the author deals with openings or closings of sections. The list here is essentially endless, but make sure you take the time to analyze the choices you steal so that you can understand how they work for the author and how they can be made to work for you.
*When I discuss stealing or borrowing from an author here, it is in reference to technique and never to direct text or overall idea.by