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  1. #1
    Zixx
    Guest

    When you read a "wow!"


    Ever done that? You're reading a story and come across a sentence that you read twice, not because you can't make sense of it, but because it was so eloquently in interestingly stated that you want to read it again? Or a thought was illustrated in such a way that you would never have thought, and thus wrote, like that?

    Let's just say, you read a phrase like "The leaves feathered the ground." I don't care if it makes sense or not, but just use it as an example. Let's say you have the reaction(for some reason. Work with me here!) to where you just never think that leaves can feather the ground, but you like it. Would you alter the phrase to come up with your own for your story? Perhaps, you write: "Pine needles feathered the ferns below."

    Thoughts about this? Is it a learning process in your writing, progressing as you encompass other ways and ideas of descriptions? Do you avoid it, thinking that you want every phrase in your writing to be of your own creation?

    Is it learning and maturing or stealing and cheating?

    Thoughts?

    Z



  2. #2
    Laura W
    Guest

    Re: When you read a "wow!"

    I don't think your example is stealing. Something I never understood is how a lot of writers believe they created something entirely new - a brand new type of plot, a novel structure never seen before....in reality, everything has been done. That's certainly not an argument in favor of plagiarism, but you can bet that the words you use have also been used in different (yet connected) ways by other writers.

    Any good writer is an avid reader. Sometimes I think about all the books I read in a given year and realize that all that language is somehow affecting my writing. But I suppose you do have to be careful if you read a "wow" sentence and purposefully try to manipulate it in your own writing. If you find yourself too often trying to transform those "wows" into your own language, perhaps you are relying too much on what you read. When you consciously try to imitate someone, you may not be writing in your own voice. This will come across to the reader.

    Instead, I think it's better to read lots of what you love, and all that great stuff will settle somewhere in your unconscious and maybe push you in a better direction when you're putting words to paper - in your own voice, and in your own style.

  3. #3
    Terez
    Guest

    Re: When you read a "wow!"

    Zixx,

    I have a file just for WOWs. I also have begun highlighting phrases in my paperbacks. I'll read them over and over and yes, use them to help create my own, but I think there's something more going on. When you read excellent writing over and over and highlight and paraphrase and hand-write and type in, there's something going on subconsciously that nourishes/grooms the muse. One thing it certainly does is makes me painfully aware of my more pedestrian writing.

    Just read a book called HEAVEN LAKE, by John Dalton, (not out until March of this year) that got starred reviews in PW a few weeks ago. I found myself trying to memorize half the book. Highly recommend it to anyone interested in travel/Asia/the expatriate experience. Felt that way about THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS too, by Yola Zeldis McDonough. Her characters were fabulously drawn.

    Memorizing/imitating other writers is an invaluable learning tool, in my mind. I'm just careful not to imitate them too closely.

    My favorite metaphor of all time: (don't ask about the author - I've long forgotten) "The cat lay on the carpet like a tipped-over pair of roller skates." Man... metaphors. I can only admire them from afar. Give me another 10 years.

    Terez

  4. #4
    Terez
    Guest

    Re: When you read a "wow!"

    Whoops, Laura, I must have been composing my reply when yours came in. Or maybe there's an example of reading great writing and imitating it, eh? You DID say the bit about the unconscious quite nicely, though.

    Terez

  5. #5
    Karen Dionne
    Guest

    Re: When you read a "wow!"

    Hm. Zixx's hypothetical example is far too close to stealing/plagarism for me to be comfortable with it. I sure wouldn't do that intentionaly. When I read something in someone else's work and I think 'wow, that's a really cool word choice,' I might file it away mentally with the idea of doing something similar, i.e. tossing out the 'ordinary' words in my writing and coming up with a replacement word or image that packs a bit more punch. But to use the same image that another author did while only slightly changing its context is far too unimaginative for my taste. Why knowingly copy what someone else wrote when you can use your imagination and talent to come up with something just as good (or better) on your own? Thinking up your own similes and metaphors carries with it the satisfaction of knowing that you've nailed it, not just copied it.

  6. #6
    Gary Kessler
    Guest

    Re: When you read a "wow!"

    If you took a phrase out of someone else's book and built a new book/theme out of it, you'd be following a time-honored tradition in literature. If you just collected phrases from the works of others and sprinkle them around in your own work to no intentional purpose--just because you'd like people to think you'd created the phrase yourself--that would be plagarism.

  7. #7
    Lois
    Guest

    Re: When you read a "wow!"

    I used to collect the WOWs. I wouldn't use them, but would find them as a jumping off place for a new similie or metaphor or descriptive passage. Now I just admire the writer and keep reading.

    Lois

  8. #8
    Laura James
    Guest

    Re: When you read a "wow!"

    I find those wows, immediately translate them into my language, and I usually know exactly where they fit in my work-in-progress. My nightstand is covered with scraps of paper with the original "wow" and my version and eventually make their way to the computer.

    Related phenomenon: seeing an *object* in someone else's fiction and inserting it in yours. In a Dreiser book I read, the character struck a match and lit the gaslight. A character of mine puts the gaslight matches to use. In a Caleb Carr book I read, so much was made of a particular strange painting that it was enough to make the reader interested in the picture. I knew just the place where a strange painting by Van Gogh, a grinning skull smoking a cigarette, could go in my work.

    My piece is set in the same time period as these books I'm reading which is the only reason why I'm reading Dreiser, ugh. A benefit of doing your reading homework (reading as lazy historical research) is finding those everyday things in the room.

    PS just found this website, great information.

  9. #9
    Brady Boyd
    Guest

    Wow.

    What a sentence! Such beauty in words, the eloguence. I feel my heart melting:

    Dear Mr. Boyd, I am stunned by your magnificent writing and would love to publish your book ASAP, so can we offer you an advance of $1,000,000, please? --Biggest Publisher in the World.

    Brady Boyd

  10. #10
    Zixx
    Guest

    Re: Wow.


    Well, it is fictional writing

    Now, of course, everyone who reads Brady's sentence as impressive will simply change one word and make it their own. Least the men will; the women need to change two words heh

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