By: Rebecca Irvine
Occasionally I think back on a fun writing exercise my ninth grade English teacher assigned. We were asked to try to write a story in the style of Ernest Hemingway. Initially, I was very much at a loss. I had no idea what to write, no thoughts on plot, and was very unsure how to mirror Hemingway's style. I hemmed and hawed for several days before the assignment was due. The night before I gave up and took one of Hemingway's short stories, and rewrote it.
I remember the story took place on a mountain. I changed it to be in a valley. Calm weather in Hemingway's story became wet weather in my version. The original story was about a young man. Mine was about an old man. Hemingway's young man had lost his legs and could not walk; my character lost his arms and hands and could not drink his beer in the bar. And so on and so on...
The next day I turned that paper in with a heavy heart. I completely felt it was a work of plaigerism and was quite certian a failing grade was coming my way.
I was greatly surprised, though, when the teacher chose to read my story out loud to the class and gave me the highest grade possible.
Of course, I would never try to get a work written in that manner published today. However, sometimes in my writing (especially when I hit a mental block) I will pull out a few of my favorite books and look for a similar scene to inspire me. For example, how a kitchen is described, or what a police officer might say when arresting someone, or even a main character's physical description. Dissecting the works of those who really know how to write often is very helpful to me in my efforts. After finding several similar scenes I am usually very much able to write, in my own words and style, when before I was completely stumped.