Imitating the Greatest Novel in History - Part 1 of ?

I realized that I need to learn this skill of writing through more imitation here:
http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/10/imitation-precedes-everything.html
Then I chose what to imitate here:
http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/10/what-to-imitate.html
Then I played with how to imitate here:
http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2017/10/how-to-imitate.html
Now the real work begins.


Here is how "Replay" by Ken Grimwood begins.

Jeff Winston was on the phone with his wife when he died.

"We need--" she'd said, and he never heard her say just what it was they needed, because something heavy seemed to slam against his chest, crushing the breath out of him. The phone fell from his hand and cracked the glass paperweight on his desk.

And this is how my imitation begins.


Tom Brooks was reading the newspaper when the lights went out.

"Terror in downtown . . ." he was reading, and he never got to read what the terror was, because something crackled outside, the lightbulb flashed and burst above his head. The newspaper fell from his hands as hot glass rained down around him in the dark.

This work is obviously being done at the particular level rather than the general, at the level of style rather than the level of structure. "Replay" is an oddly structured book because it concerns repetitive time travel. I will work on imitating plots and structures at some point as well, maybe taking a page from the way Ben Franklin learned to structure his writing, but today I am working on paragraph number three. Here it is from "Replay".

Just the week before, she'd said something similar, had said, "Do you know what we need, Jeff?" and there'd been a pause - not infinite, not final, like this mortal pause, but a palpable interim nonetheless. He'd been sitting at the kitchen table, in what Linda liked to call the "breakfast nook," although it wasn't really a separate space at all, just a little formica table with two chairs placed awkwardly between the left side of the refrigerator and the front of the clothes drier. Linda had been chopping onions at the counter when she said it, and maybe the tears at the corner of her eyes were what had set him thinking, had lent her question more import than she'd intended.

Wow, it's just so masterfully interwoven. That's why I can read it over and over. Emotion and description and internal dialogue all mixed with intermingling conflicts ebbing beneath each moment; it's amazing. Now, I have to try to imitate that. This is not going to be easy.

Just yesterday something similar had happened, there had been a flash - not darkness, not total, not permanent like this, but a flicker none the less. He'd been standing in front of the fireplace, what he liked to call the "hearth," although it wasn't so impressive as that sounded, just a little metal grate within a simple stone encasement that was set in an awkward position between the living room and just left of the entrance way. Tom had been staring into the flames when it happened, and maybe the light from the fire was what started his mind turning, had lent the occurrence more import than it necessitated.

It's okay, it's okay. I wish it were a bit better. I started this article yesterday, but I needed a night to sleep on it, to let my mind turn it over before I was ready to tackle it. Let's put these first three paragraphs together and see how they sound. First, the original.

Jeff Winston was on the phone with his wife when he died.

"We need--" she'd said, and he never heard her say just what it was they needed, because something heavy seemed to slam against his chest, crushing the breath out of him. The phone fell from his hand and cracked the glass paperweight on his desk.

Just the week before, she'd said something similar, had said, "Do you know what we need, Jeff?" and there'd been a pause - not infinite, not final, like this mortal pause, but a palpable interim nonetheless. He'd been sitting at the kitchen table, in what Linda liked to call the "breakfast nook," although it wasn't really a separate space at all, just a little formica table with two chairs placed awkwardly between the left side of the refrigerator and the front of the clothes drier. Linda had been chopping onions at the counter when she said it, and maybe the tears at the corner of her eyes were what had set him thinking, had lent her question more import than she'd intended.

And now my version that serves as a stylistic reflection.


Tom Brooks was reading the newspaper when the lights went out.

"Terror in downtown . . ." he was reading, and he never got to read what the terror was, because something crackled outside, the lightbulb flashed and burst above his head. The newspaper fell from his hands as hot glass rained down around him in the dark.

Just yesterday something similar had happened, there had been a flash - not darkness, not total, not permanent like this, but a flicker none the less. He'd been standing in front of the fireplace, what he liked to call the "hearth," although it wasn't so impressive as that sounded, just a little metal grate within a simple stone encasement that was set in an awkward position between the living room and just left of the entrance way. Tom had been staring into the flames when it happened, and maybe the light from the fire was what started his mind turning, had lent the occurrence more import than it necessitated.

There are different ways I could have gone with that, which will make a huge difference. I could have focused more on the newspaper article rather than the fire and the flash, but I think this may work out. That's what I'm trying to build, those neural connections to decipher which direction is the best to go. The next paragraph is a one liner, so I will be doing paragraphs 4 and 5 in the next post.

You are welcome to join me on this little writing excursion at JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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