A couple of months ago I attended a writing workshop led by the fabulous Nutschell of the blog The Writing Nut for Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles (CBW-LA) and one of the exercises I walked away with involved paraphrasing a passage in a novel in your own voice. Basically, tell the same story, but rewrite it in your own style.
Style is something that we have. It is the writing that comes naturally to us. It involves the way we organize our words and our thoughts, the language we use, the point of view we prefer. It is the intangible, yet very real, thumbprint of a writer.
To do this, Nutschell gave each of us a worksheet with several first paragraphs from recognizable books. She had us see how many of them we could recognize (book title and/or author) from the passage.
Once we identified the voice of the author, she had us take ten minutes to rewrite in our own voice, our own style. This is a great exercise for writers to use in order to practice our writing. It helps us in a couple of regards.
For one, we can play with things like tone and verbiage and point of view without having to come up with the story on top of everything else.
For another, it helps us get past that hump of writing like the book we just read.
(We're chameleons, and whether we like it or not, we are influenced by what we read. I like to think I'm less influenced now than I used to be, but when I pick up my writings from 1st through 7th grade, I can tell you exactly which novel or book series I was reading when I wrote my story because either the story or the voice is so similar. A LOT of babysitting stories in the days of The Babysitter's Club, a fair amount of influence from Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley Twins, and then the random influence of books like Trumpet of the Swan, Charlotte's Web, Harriot the Spy and authors like Roald Dahl and Madeleine L'Engle.)
Today, I invite you to rewrite a paragraph from a recognizable book in your own voice. You can pick any of the three paragraphs that follow, or pick a favorite book you have at home.
writercize: Rewrite one of the following passages in your own voice, or use a passage from a book you have at home. Feel free to split it up into more than one paragraph, elaborate, or cut down! Just be sure to take it into your voice.
- "When Mrs. Frederick C. Little's second son arrived, everybody noticed he was not much bigger than a mouse. The truth of the matter was, the baby looked very much like a mouse in every way. He was only about two inches high; and he had a mouse's sharp nose, a mouse's tail, a mouse's whiskers, and the pleasant shy manner of a mouse." - from Stuart Little by E.B. White
- "Clare: It's hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he's okay. It's hard to be the one who stays." - from The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
- "It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no others think and to put them down upon a paper no others are to see. It is base and evil. It is as if we were speaking alone to no ears but our own. and we know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone. We have broken the laws. The laws say that men may not write unless the Council of Vocations bid them so. May we be forgiven!" - from Anthem by Ayn Rand
Have fun with it! Leave your writercize rewrite as a comment - I love to see what people come up with! Please be sure to leave your URL so I can pay you a visit as well.
Click "read more" for writercizer sample response based on Stuart Little (excerpt and sample response from that workshop).
When neighbors would watch Mrs. Little walk down the street, they often remarked to one another how odd the newest addition to the family appeared.
It wasn't the old-man bald baby syndrome that plagued most newborns; rather there was something almost animalistic about him.
"What small, beady eyes that one has," Mrs. Brown would mutter to Mrs. Horn.
"Indeed, and are those whiskers along his cheek?" Mrs. Horn would reply.
In fact, Stuart was unusually small and pallid with pink ears that stuck up on his head. And a tail that hadn't hidden before birth.