The Sincerest Form of Flattery

What’s that they say about imitation? Well, apparently I’m incompetent when it comes to flattery, because as far as I can tell my writing looks absolutely nothing like my favorite authors’ efforts.

If I was the snooty type, I’d claim that the lack of similarities was intentional due to my artistic integrity, unique voice, particular point-of-view, blah blah blah. And…I guess I am snooty, because that’s true. Trying to project another author’s voice and tone into my own work feels phony to me. This goes to my answer to our future ephemera post related to fan fiction. I understand why people like to write fanfic—it gives the author an instant jump-start to their writing, and lets them create new tales about characters and worlds that they’ve grown to love through the original stories. But in order for me to stay inspired and motivated during the writing process, I need to create my own characters and worlds. Similarly, I very much want to craft my own writing style and voice.

Another component to my lack of emulation in my writing is that I don’t have the proper training to pull it off. My favorite SF stories are always centered around cosmology, physics, rockets, and math, but I am not a trained cosmologist, physicist, rocket scientist, or mathematician. I’m no high-falutin’ scientist at all. Can I (and do I) write about the same topics I like to read about? Sure. Will I ever manage to write about them with the depth and expertise of my favorite authors? Probably not.

All that said, I do try to borrow certain key traits from my favorite books and authors and let them guide my own creative process. Most importantly, I appreciate how my favorite writers don’t let their writing get in the way of the story. This approach really lends itself to my own natural style, so I’m constantly striving to write stories where the words disappear for the reader, and only the story is left. If I can manage that, I’d be a happy camper.


  • dave says:

    I’m with you on this one, Ted. I’ve been reading all the other essays on this topic and thinking: ‘I don’t know that I could pick up on any author’s “voice”, let alone my own.’ (with some obvious extreme exceptions). maybe because of that, or maybe it’s a cop-out, but I feel like you do, that I don’t want coloration, I want the story told as transparently as possible. I think the ultimate success is to have a reader forget that they’re reading.

    • Ted Boone says:

      As a reader of some of your work, I’d agree that the voice in your stories is wholly your own. I also think you do an admirable job of getting out of the way of your own story.

      Which begs the question: what will it take to get you to keep writing, Dave?

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