“I was like a well trained pianist who knows which note to hit, but can’t make the music his own.”
― David Benioff,
I’ve come to discover I’m something of a mockingbird. My art is often more mimicry than original.
My funniest moments usually entail bringing up something that has already been deemed hilarious, the memory even funnier in a new context. I have decent comedic timing and quick wit, but most of my jokes are not my own.
I’ve noticed it in my writing, too. My personality is a bit obsessive so once I get into a show or a book I can’t stop until I’ve absorbed it entirely. I start thinking in terms of the story, using similar vocabulary and diction as the characters, and when I try to write my own stories, this mimicry flows through.
I got the full series of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman for Christmas one year, and I wasn’t halfway through the box-set before my characters were using words like “ma” and finding rugged, outdoorsy ways to occupy their time. While reading Robin LaFevers’s His Fair Assassins trilogy, my own writing stopped using contractions and took on the elevated diction of a medieval noble.
Usually upon editing I can get back into my own character’s heads, my own story’s voice, and I can make the necessary word adjustments to return to my own style.
There are a few writers whose actual style lingers deep in my subconscious, though. Mark Zusak (The Book Thief, I am the Messenger) is probably my favorite. Every so often, I’ll write something oddly poetic, and I’ll have a burst of gratitude for Zusak and his impeccably beautiful prose.
It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And like a child watching her world with awe-filled eyes, I am easily shaped by the words and experiences I’ve immersed myself in. I only hope I will continue to tug out my own, original voice from the web of adoration I gladly weave around myself with each new book, with each beloved movie.