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🔬 Imitate Your Favorite Writers

Michael Dean
Michael Dean
1 min read

"How do I actually translate my personality onto the page? I know the vibe I want to get across, but when I sit down and write, it feels flat."

Some would say, “Voice is just something you have. Don’t think about it. It’s natural. It just comes out.” While this might eventually be true, it’s hard to write authentically in the early days. We’re stuck in our bad habits– we write long sentences, we show instead of tell, and our prose is littered with cliches. The ideas are beautiful in our head, but awkward on the page.

There are many ways to bring out your voice– audio transcriptions, editing out loud, pseudonyms, (legal) substances. But a quick and powerful way to start uncovering your voice is to study and imitate your favorite writers. Your taste is a clue towards your voice. After all, if you’re inspired by someone, it means there’s a part of yourself in them. The goal isn’t to plagiarize, or to copy them word for word. The goal is to understand how they express their personality through language.

To start reverse engineering your favorite writers, all you have to do is change how you read. Instead of highlighting interesting ideas, highlight how they use language. Notice their word choices, their sentence structures, their images, rhythms, and tones. Instead of reading whole books, open to a random page and re-read it 3 or 4 times. Really pay attention to how they’re writing. Underline like crazy, and walk away with some things to try next time you write. For example:

  • Use short sentences after long ones.
  • Break the fourth wall using parenthesis.
  • Tell a joke once per paragraph.

Test things out, exaggerate, and see how they feel. Some moves will feel unnatural, but others will ring, as if you’ve unlocked something within you. Double down on whatever feels right. The more you read, analyze, and experiment, the more you’ll start sounding like yourself.

This is an excerpt from the Write of Passage Weekly Newsletter.
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