Conversation on this occasion was excellent, and it's left me thinking about one thing - the habits of a writer, and repetition over various books.
In this case, it's Haruki Murakami. Both fans of his work, my friend and I often find him coming up as we talk. In this case it led to a particular list, of things he has in all his books - of, in a way, unoriginal memes that identify a book as Murakami's. A loner man, a promiscuous girl, drinking beer from a bottle, detailed cooking scenes, ears - the list goes on and anyone who reads his work will recognize that these are more than just themes; they are his trademarks. The word 'iconic' was used, but I'm not sure about that one yet.
|Clever, friendly Starky's blog - well worth a read|
So does it apply to words, too? Certain writers just like certain words better. I know I overused 'chuckle', for instance. And there's style. The Guardian books section has done a wonderful job at times of aping the writing of known authors for parody. Alexander McCall Smith got one, and it really was instantly recognizable as his writing - except, of course, that it wasn't.
A good stylist can copy another writer like a good painter can paint in the style of a known master - Picasso or Van Gogh or whoever.
Tags, like in street art, get known, and they become your own. Even word order, or chapter arrangement, if copied over more than one book, can become representative of the most elusive thing in writing - your voice.
There's a lot of talking about finding your voice as a writer, though I'm not sure that's quite bang on. Perhaps it should be about using your voice - in being comfortable enough to ignore convention and grammar and good usage, as long as it's deliberate, for the sake of the story you have to tell.
Once I'd written several books, I saw my own little tics. Things I did over and over (some good, some bad), things I'd copied from other writers (switching 'said' to be before or after the speaker's name, for example, I saw well used by Philip Pullman), things I was just doing wrong...
They all add up to make something recognizably yours.
Maybe I'll put dream sequences in all my books. Maybe I'll always use the word 'mote.' I just hope that above all I'll let the story get told, and that it'll be a good one.