Wednesday, October 17, 2007

in others' words

I've been a mermaid, a tombstone, a dollar bill, a mailbox, one of the three blind mice and Lady Godiva. Part of the fun of Hallowe'en is pretending to be something you're not,* to escape the cage of self and slip into someone else's skin. There's something strangely compelling about the idea of transformation. The Roman poet Ovid wrote Metamorphoses, fifteen books of dactylic hexameter, mostly consisting of myths, seemingly taken at random, in which someone changes into someone or something else. Narcissus becomes a flower. Arachne becomes a spider. Pygmalion's girl of ivory becomes a girl of flesh and blood. And, of course, Niobe is turned into a weeping stone.

In the same way that, in everyday life, we're limited by our personality and appearance, in writing we tend to become limited by our style. Purposefully or not, eventually, our writing solidifies into a distinctive voice with recognizable stylistic tics. Over and over, we tend to pick the same kind of topics, to see things from the same vantage point and to discuss them using the same turns of phrase. I've often toyed with the idea of writing a series of posts adopting the voices of some of my favorite bloggers. I could, I've thought, try on someone else's sentence structure, wrap myself in someone else's point of view, scatter someone else's adjectives in front of someone else's nouns. And, by teaching myself to speak using other people's voices, I would learn something about my own.

So, with that in mind, I'm asking if, as your comment, you could write a very short imaginary post, maybe just a sentence or two (though, if you feel so inspired, I'd certainly also welcome longer posts), mimicking the style of Niobe. Feel free to do a caricature or a parody, exaggerating my typical way of using words and overemphasizing the (many) peculiarities of my prose, making it more like me than I am myself.


*Another part is pretending to be something that you are, but that's a different post for a different day.

edited to add: To all those who've posted comments to the effect that they're reluctant to even try: please consider giving it a whirl. You have absolutely no idea how ridiculously much I enjoy reading these.

42 comments:

Tash said...

[Do you see this silence, Niobe?? Do you know how f'g hard it is to imitate your beautiful prose? Hmm? I'm desperately thinking of some killer word to start mine off with, so I'll be off until I do . . . ]

Julia said...

Separation

The lone green tomato on the ground looked perfect. Except that it was separated from the vine that was supposed to nourish it into the appetizingly luscious red hues, the separation ensuring that these hues would never come now. To add insult to injury, if you upturned the perfect green tomato, you would find that raccoons, or maybe those horrid black squirrels, had a bite of it, but apparently eschewed its greenness and moved on.

If you found the work of your hands, or maybe of something deeper, irrevocably broken, frozen in the state of promise, a cruel shadow of what it should have turned into, would you feel sad? Mad? Resigned?


How did I do?

bubandpie said...

Why is it that, when asked to write in the style of the meandering yet pithy Niobe, I find myself in the midst of a long interrogative sentence? Followed by a short one.

Eva said...

If I could write you, why would I want to read you?

Furrow said...

I also find that I, when attempting to mimic Niobe, end up with a series of dependent clauses (though with a less spectacular vocabulary and no references to mythology), casting about for some logical conclusion to this game, but find that, inevitably, nothing is logical, and nothing ever concludes. Not neatly, anyway.

slouching mom said...

(Damn woman, you are BRAVE!)

When a child imagines a rock, it is as if out of all the rocks in the world, he must have found the one that most resembled its stereotype. Perfectly oval, shiny, its striations so regular that they seem unnatural, as if they were lined by an unseen hand, and an adept one.

But rocks come in all shapes and sizes. Most are jagged on at least one side. There is beauty in them, but it is a hard, brittle, and irregular dort of beauty.

And that's as it should be. At the end of the day, what we find beautiful and what causes pain, what makes us shield our eyes and turn away, are as thick as those proverbial thieves.

slouching mom said...

oops -- not dort, but sort. Niobe would never publish without first proofreading.

Anns said...

Speechless, stunted and unsure of the starting point for this prose, I sit here, aghast in thought, deep inside my mind, wondering.

Aurelia said...

I can't even attempt it. Won't even dare.

Magpie said...

Definitely in Aurelia's camp. Will not go there.

Ruby said...

Aurelia speaks true, I wouldn't dare.

Amelie said...

A challenge I am not sure I am up to. If I had your vocabulary, your knowledge of all those weird yet curious things, or simply a good idea for a topic, one of those odd little details you so often observe and then wrap in eloquent terms, I might try. Perhaps. It could easily end up being an entry OF DOOM, though.

becky said...

Can't do it. Would love to, but cannot. Too afraid.

Lori said...

Fear I am comfortable with. I dwell in its essence as I carry out my duties.

Where Clotho engenders hope and and Lachesis provokes clever bargaining, I, Atropos, am the Moira who sees the grip of fear in the hearts and eyes of men when they are at their most vulnerable.

Yet I carry none myself.

Zee said...

On the porch outside my door, a weed has been growing since August. It pushed up through a gap in the wooden post from which you’d think nothing could grow. For the last month I have been musing about the incongruity. Fresh green against splintered white. New life among the ruins.

Tash said...

Wrapped in the symbolism of Lachesis, Niobe not only converses regarding the lot and length of life, but, under the velvet cloak of this seemingly saturine subject, pauses to understand the lot and length of the word and the visual impression, sometimes mysteriously, and often in a manner that I need to read twice. Beautiful indeed.

And then adds a line of snark.

Aurelia said...

Okay, didn't any get that my first comment WAS my imitation of niobe?

I mean really, when are my comments that short?

Aurelia said...

or my posts for that matter!

niobe said...

Well, clearly, I'm too dense to have gotten it. Sorry, Aurelia.

missedconceptions said...

I was trying to think of how/what to write, but Tash did it so better than I ever could. I certainly know that I could identify your distinct style of writing, but I am not so sure that I could imitate it.

What I find interesting is that I "hear" different voices when I read different blogs. Your written voice is distinct, but so is the one I hear in my head pronouncing your words. Of course, I have never heard you nor any of the other bloggers speak, so I wonder who I am unconsciously associating you with.

Lori said...

She sits, staring out the window at the rain, knowing she shouldn't go out, but knowing she will. Will anyone notice whether she emerges or not? Will anyone care? After all, it is her parade, and yet the gods have already seemed to issue their judgment.


P.S. Unlike most of your posts, there is no hidden meaning behind this. I am just looking out my window at the rain, and trying to channel my inner Niobe.

My Reality said...

I am not good at imitation with writing styles or speech or anything like that.

I will tell you how I see your writing style, though. I love the way you write. You are elusive, almost to the point of being a tease. You never really say how you feel, it is left to be read between the lines. You often ask us for our take on things, turning the attention away from you.

How am I doing? Am I pretty close?

cinnamon gurl said...

This is a brilliant idea. I often find myself sort of channeling one blogger or another, so I can almost hear them while I write. And sometimes I imagine myself channelled in bloggers' posts from time to time, which is flattering. (Well, ok, it was once, but still.) Maybe I'm just imagining it all but I hear Beck ALL the time. Every time I use all caps for emphasis, it's BECK.

No promises, but I may try.

I love B&P's! She rocks.

Aurelia said...

No Niobe, you are not dense! I am just not that good, or else someone else would've gotten it. Oh well, back to being me.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, there much much better!

painted maypole said...

what a great idea. i am far too brain dead from recovering from a nasty migraine to even attempt, but I have been entertained by the ones I've read, and if you ever want to try to mimic me (eek!) you have my full permission (and curiosity)

Caro said...

great idea, I'd be interested to see how my posts sound. But I'm afraid I'm in the not going to try camp.

Bon said...

i know that i cannot, and yet i thank you for asking.

though do you know that your posts and your comments - almost - have two different voices?

(this was my best attempt, by the way, not just a big chickenshit cop out even though i am definitely a big chickenshit. and this in the brackets? my style. the above...some sad attempt at yours...short, interrogative, bold, gracious and graceful, yet always drawing boundaries).

missedconceptions said...

Bon is right, Niobe.

Your comments and your posts -- it is almost as if they are written by two different people. You sound more relaxed in your comments, but more reserved in your posts.

Are you going to post somethings in the style of other bloggers?

niobe said...

I hadn't thought of the gap between my comments and posts before -- but I think you're actually right.

I'm kind of reluctant to post something using the style and typical subject matter of other bloggers, because, y'know, it might well come across as mean-spirited or nasty. Also, I know lots of people are kind of sensitive about their writing, and probably would not appreciate it being parodied.

Zee said...

Oh, c'mon! Be a sport! We did YOU, now it's only fair that you try to do us. (How about if we all agree that no one will take it as nasty and mean-spirited? Everyone? Agree? Good. See, Niobe, it's totally cool...)

Renae said...

Observing, but not taking part, I see all around me shades of gray. The palette of colors on this autumn day are bleak, reminiscient of old black & white photos, gray on darker gray. I could be one of those photos today.

(Niobe - not my best attempt, but very interesting to try. Have you taken a creative writing course lately?)

Renae

Lori said...

I would like you to know that you have caused me to be completely self-conscious about my writing now! As I was writing my latest post, I kept thinking to myself- "So what are my writing quirks? How would Niobe mimic me? What is my 'voice'?" Geez... thanks a lot! :)

By they way, I am well aware that I overuse parenthetical clauses!!

niobe said...

Lori: I know that I like parenthesis far too much. (and also italics).

bubandpie said...

You can parody me if you want. I think I can take it.

niobe said...

Thanks, B&P, Painted Maypole, and Caro for letting me try to parody you. I'll see what I can come up with.

Beruriah said...

A warning

I am young and my hair is damp. The steps into the building are faded gray cement. A cast off acorn grazes my shoulder. I look up to its source, where a black squirrel sits, and yells when I return his gaze. Even he can see what lies ahead.

~~~
Okay that was half ass but I am late to this. I'd love to hear you in my voice but I'm not sure I have a distinct one.

Elizabeth said...

Autumn always reminds me of the Bromeliad, the dusty leaves of the library tome glittering the late afternoon sunlight. A long time ago, I would haunt the rare books archives where the ghosts of rusty voices seemed to drift over the worn book spines like dust, haunted by their own vanquished relevance. Now I would pile those dusty spines in the yard and instigate a conflagration of useless memories.

If you had a book-burning, what would you throw on the flames?

(p.s. I stole the title of Bromeliad from one of my favorite satirical writers, Terry Pratchett.)

Julia said...

Oh, I didn't realize you were waiting for explicit permission. If my style is nearly interesting enough for you, fell free to have a go. It's only fair. :)

Zee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zee said...

Were you waiting for permission? If so, and the idea has any appeal for you, consider parodying me permissed.

Pamela Jeanne said...

A vision, soft as the gentle breeze that blows off the Mediterranean, arises as the dawn breaks before me: ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

Ontogeny is the growth (size change) and development (shape change) of an individual organism; phylogeny is the evolutionary history of a species. Haeckel's recapitulation theory claims that the development of the individual of every species fully repeats the evolutionary development of that species.

One of my favorite theories. How could it not be? It explains so very much. Do I need to make it any more obvious? If you were left-handed you'd understand.

Tomorrow, strawberries.

* * * *
Okay, turnabout is fair play. I just know I'm asking for trouble. Let me have it!

susan said...

I turned my comment into a post of my own--hope you like it. It's not quite your voice, but I tried.