Parody for practice
Take one fine author’s works and biography; ingest and digest; ruminate and write.
I have found that re-working the style of a respected writer, as I sketch anecdotes, has led me to some interesting ideas. I have recently swum the English Channel: splashing my way through Ulysses, Dubliners, Chamber Music, Portrait of the Artist, but not, I admit, Finnegans Wake. Primed with Joyce’s voice and style, I doodled out a scene for one of my own stories. The editor was out of my mental office and I ran the keyboard like a witty simile. I discovered that I have had an aversion to long sentences. Keep it pithy, I had absorbed from my Strunk and White. But what happens if you break those rules that are so embedded that you no longer challenge them? Well, if they are road usage rules, you are likely to strike pedestrians and have to answer before Judge Greenville of Greenville county or Judge Anderson of Anderson county. [Remind me, which one of those is fictional?]
In this case, I wrote the longest sentences I could control without resort to cattle prods. It isn’t great, but it has encouraged me to see that brevity is often best, but there can be uses for great baggy sentences, thrown together for effect, and adding a certain annoying Je ne sais quois to the text, just as using pretentious phrases adds a certain I don’t know what.
Anyway. My point, to the extent I had one, is to suggest you try it. Read the works of X (long may she/he remain in print!) and then try to write or rewrite a story or anecdote of your own while styling it with the brush of your selected great master. Here is a scene that mimics the side-bar commentary that Joyce employed amid his rambling sentences:
Amram dressed as Natalie Cricklewood to fool them as he fooled about. Won the bronze cup in the Miss KWHS beauty pageant. Why high, King Williams High School for Girls? Why were they high and not the boys? It was a geographical curiosity arising from the contours of Park Vale. Thus it came to pass that Amram, velvet skirted from lumbar 4 to fibial malleolus, thirty-four minutes of make-up, a white silk blouse, and a Christmas tree ornament as a choker to cloak his Adam’s apple, was camouflaged sufficiently to tame the judge: befuddled Shrewie, his beloved school captain at KWS, clear of brow, immense of intellect, inconsiderable in sporting ability, capable of kicking a rugby ball full ten thousand of your earth millimetres, and striking with willow stick a solid one in ten.
“Third place, Miss Natalie Cricklewood. Come up and get your award, Natalie!” On to the stage with a wave, Amram preened puckering, heard under his breath Shrewie whisper, “Am I supposed to kiss you?” Taking the bull by the horns, Amram, planted a big wet lip smush on Shrewie’s shocked mouth below that acne-free brow which would maliciously spread to his entire head by the tender age of forty-five.