As I was poring over this week’s WordPress writing challenge about stylish imitation, I immediately thought of my favorite quote from Gone With the Wind, one that I often paraphrase (I’m rather famous in my own circles for my paraphrase, by the way).
This was one of my best-loved books as a teenager. The voices of the characters, the descriptions of their feelings, and the unfolding story line kept me mesmerized – turning page after page, unwilling to stop reading even long enough to eat or sleep. Such is the case when a book catches my imagination . . . I missed many a fun trip by having my nose in a book and my ears tuned out to anything going on around me. Fortunately for me, there was never a house fire to interrupt my concentration. I was sorry to hear about all the trips to the drive-in for sodas, burgers & fries, teen camaraderie, and ice cream cones I’d missed, though. My imagination thanked me, even though my taste buds staged a hunger strike and refused to come out for days. No matter – I had my books to feed me, both soul and mind. Forget the stomach, it could wait!
What really intrigues me, and makes me want to imitate a particular writer, is his or her power to communicate an idea or describe a scene in a way that surprises me, yet makes me conclude that there could be no other possible way of saying it that would resonate the same. As I read, I see the scenes as clearly as if I were in the room with the characters, watching their every move. And I want so badly to write just like this, to make people see what I see in my head – to bring the reader into the scene so completely that he feels the breath of the character on his own cheek. What a gift!
I believe Margaret Mitchell had that gift. She brought me into the scene and made me sit down beside Scarlett. She made me want to reach out and slap some sense into her silly head, yet hold her and comfort the aching little girl inside her at the same time. She made me admire Scarlett’s wisdom and courage, while groaning at her selfishness and pettiness. These are two more of my favorite quotes from the book – I had to laugh at the first and cry at the second.
Death, taxes, and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them.
I loved something I made up, something that’s just as dead as Melly is. I made a pretty suit of clothes and fell in love with it. And when Ashley came riding along, so handsome, so different, I put that suit on him and made him wear it whether it fitted him or not. And I wouldn’t see what he really was. I kept on loving the pretty clothes-and not him at all.
How I would love to develop a writing style like Margaret Mitchell! But how can I write like someone else when I sound like myself?? It’s harder than it looks to imitate someone; I know – I’ve tried!! It always comes out sounding just like me. As Popeye once put it so succinctly, and I appropriate so unabashedly,
If I’m not me, who am I? And if I’m somebody else, why do I look like me?