Bela Lampert

Optioned Screenwriter / Yoga Instructor

Imitate, Then Don’t Imitate

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Imitate, Then Don’t Imitate

Aspiring to become professional at something, it’s logical and understandable that many try to imitate someone who can do it well.

But there is a trap many fall into.

Imitation is not imitation, it depends on WHAT EXACTLY you’re trying to imitate.

Take successful screenwriters for example.

I love reading and hearing dialogue from Aaron Sorkin for example.

But trying to imitate the way he does it is a doomed mission.

Because I’m not him. I will never write dialogue like he does.

Because he does it the way he got used to hearing it in years and years of family discussions at his home when he grew up (at least according to him that was part of it).

So what he does when he writes his dialogue he weaves in his experience and of course a bunch of techniques that he has learned over the years.

Apart from that, let’s suppose I had success imitating his dialogue, what good would it make to have two writers that write in his style?

You have to be able to imitate style when you’re writing for a showrunner, but that’s not my point.

But even then, you’ll always be in the shadow of that person.

What you need to do is find your own voice, your own style, based on who you are as a person, what characters and things you like to see on the big and the small screen.

So, when it comes to imitation, what you look for when you analyse the work of professionals, is the deep structure. 

In the example of Sorkin’s dialogue: what is it about his dialogue that makes it great? Why do his characters seem so real? Why could we listen to them for hours and hours?

Try to find out (and imitate) the technique behind it that makes it great.

And then, take these insights, apply them to your own writing (or whatever it is that you do), and use them in your own style and your own voice.

Imitate technique, not personality!

If you want a bunch of inspiration techniques to imitate:

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