What to Imitate?
Big decisions, big decisions. I must choose what to imitate. I feel like this is a huge decision, although I may be putting too much import upon it. I could always jump around from work to work, but I kind of feel like really doing a deep dive. This post is about making that decision.
If I really commit to a book then it’s going to be a major time, energy, and attention investment, but I think it’s probably for the best. I have the list down to ten books.
“Fevre Dream” by George R. R. Martin
“Elantris” by Brandon Sanderson
“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad
“Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse
“The Sorrows of Young Werther” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J. K. Rowling
“Candide” by Voltaire
“The Dice Man” by Luke Rhinehart
“Zorba the Greek” by Nikos Kazantzakis
“Replay” by Ken Grimwood
None of them are huge, but four of them are pretty small: “Heart of Darkness”, “Siddhartha”, “The Sorrows of Young Werther”, and “Candide”. It would be nice to study something small because I could complete it in a much shorter timeframe, and I really like some of these works.
Let’s see if I can just eliminate any from the list, that would be a good starting place. “The Dice Man” by Luke Rhinehart can be eliminated. It’s an awesome book, a very unusual book that I believe would only apply in a very limited context and probably won’t help me to develop my skills all that well. We are down to nine.
“Zorba the Greek” can be cut too. It’s a great book and I really like it, but I don’t want to be writing from that perspective. We are down to eight.
I can’t believe I’m going to eliminate Harry Potter, but I’m going to. The tonality is just a little too young for me. They are nice, light, fun reads, but while I’m writing I think I want to have a different voice. We are down to seven.
I like “The Sorrows of Young Werther”, but I’m not particularly interested in studying epistolary writing that deeply at this time. We are down to six.
“Candide” is a great book, but I don’t want to delve into satire that deeply at this time. We are down to five.
The style used in both “Siddhartha” and “Heart of Darkness” reflect the fact that they are short works. I like that style, but I’m not sure I want to do a ton of work in that style right now. I want to work in a longer style. Now, we are down to three.
“Fevre Dream”, “Elantris”, and “Replay” are left. I consider “Replay” the greatest novel ever written. The reason I have shied away from it is that I’m a little intimidated with taking that on. “Fevre Dream” and “Elantris” are great too. I love George Martin’s style, and all of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” books. “Elantris” has a strong connection to me because it is about unending and unavoidable pain, a condition I know well. I don’t want to make the decision just on that though, so I am taking “Elantris” out of the running. We are down to two. It’s getting intense now.
I cannot find a reason to eliminate either. I think I am going to have to do some comparisons. Two notes before that. First, I don’t believe in spoiler alerts. If your story can be ruined like that, your story sucks. Second, I know I have been using quotations in an unusual way. I disagree with the way quotations are used (and a with a few other things about commonly accepted grammar) so I decided to do it a better way.
“Fevre Dream” is about a riverboat captain (Abner Marsh) in the mid-1800’s that meets an unusual character by the name of Joshua York. They go into business together, York the financier, but things get a bit unusual. York turns out to be a vampire that is trying to lead his people to not kill people by quenching their thirst with a special potion he has made. Another, very old, vampire is in the area though (along the Mississippi) and ends up making York submissive. That ability is part of their race; yes, they are a different race. Decades after this older and more animalistic vampire steals the great riverboat Marsh finally finds them. Together Marsh and York are finally able to kill him.
This description just makes it sound like basic fantasy, it is not. It’s my own quick description, I wish it was better. This book really delves into ambition, trust, leading and following, perseverance, foolishness and idealism, and so many other things. It is a unique perspective on some charismatic characters, and I like that.
“Replay” is about a man that dies of a heart attack at work in his forties. He then wakes up in his college dorm room when he’s 18. He lives an entire life over again, and again dies in his forties. Then he wakes up when he’s 18 again, and lives an entire life over again. He keeps all of his memories each time. What would you do if you woke up and you were 18 again? Everything was the same, and you had so many decisions to make. There are so many possibilities in life. This book puts a ticking clock in by having the time exponentially shorten. The protagonist also meets another person that is living through the same loop. It’s an amazing trip. I’ve listened to the audiobook around a dozen times, I’m reading the book and listening to the book at two different points now. It’s the only novel I’ve ever re-read, which is ironic considering it’s title. Just describing it I know I am going to go with “Replay”. I can’t go with anything else. Maybe when I’m done with this one, or even before then, I’ll add in others, but it has to be the first because it is the best.
You are welcome to join me and see how this learning process goes at JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com