I've found that writing pastiche pieces imitating great writers can be a really helpful and fun excercise. It's a great way to practice technique and different writing styles, which can help you become a more versatile writer. To do it well you really have to analyze their writing styles by looking at things such as the kind of words they tend to use, sentence length, dialogue patterns, voice etc.
Most writers have a specialty, something they are particularly effective at. It could be anything from engaging dialogue, their pacing of the plot, the way they convey interal emotions etc. Quentin Tarantino for instance is phenomenal at writing dialogue, while Fitzgerald was capable of writing stunning scene description. I try to think about identifying what a writer is best at and then trying to add that skill to my arsenal by imitating them until I have internalized it.
Ernest Hemingway is one of my favorite authors, and like many other writers I have learned a huge amount from studying his minimalistic writing style. In the passage below, I’ve rewritten the ending of The Sun Also Rises to hint towards the possibility of a happy ending for Brett and Jake. As with any Hemingway imitation, this piece risks verging into parody territory...but hey what can you do?
(The paragraph in italics is directly copied from the book to give context to the scene.)
I opened the door. The maid closed it after me. Brett was in bed. She had just been brushing her hair and held the brush in her hand. The room was in that disorder produced only by those who have always had servants.
“Darling!” Brett said.
I went over to the bed and put my arms around her. She kissed me, and while she kissed me I could feel she was thinking of something else. She was trembling in my arms. She felt very small. She drew away but I pulled her back and I kissed her as she trembled in my arms and for a moment we held each other as though there were nothing wrong.
“Darling! I’ve had such a hell of a time.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Nothing to tell you. He only left yesterday.”
“I made him go.”
“You’re too dammed good for him.”
She looked away. She took a cigarette out from her purse and lifted it to her lips. “Oh, don’t talk like that darling. It doesn’t do any good. Let’s not talk about it. Let’s never talk about it.”
I lit the cigarette. She looked quite beautiful. She touched her head against mine and I kissed her. She pushed me away. We kissed again. “Oh, don’t. Please. It’s rotten. I know it is, darling. Please understand,” Brett said.
“What was that about being in trouble?”
“Oh, hell. I don’t know. I was so miserable, darling.”
She put out the cigarette. She wasn’t looking at me. “I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have. I needed to see you.”
Brett was looking away and I saw she was crying. I put my arms around her and she rested her head on my shoulder. I could feel her hair against my cheek. She felt very small. I could feel it all being repeated and I knew I would go through it all again. I stroked her hair. It was really very pretty hair. I could feel her crying. She pushed me back and looked at me with her eyes.
“Oh Jake, why does it have to be so terrible?”
“Love. It’s the worst thing in the world.”
“It isn’t so bad,” I said.
She looked at me. She was crying freely now. I wondered if the boy Romero had ever seen her that way. No, I thought, he was only a boy. It was all just fun for a boy. I stroked her hair and breathed in her scent and tried to make every passing moment last longer than the one that came before. I looked into her eyes, but she looked away and pressed her head into my chest.
“I’m going back to Mike,” she said. “He’s so dammed nice and he’s so awful. He’s my sort of thing.” I stroked her hair and held her. She was shaking.
“Don’t,” I said.
“What else is there to do?”
I kissed her. I could feel her shaking. She pushed me away. “Stop, please! Oh, Jake. It isn’t fair.”
“Don’t go back to Mike.”
“Oh, hell Jake. I just want to be happy. Why does everybody else get to have happiness?”
“No one ever has it for good,” I said. “They only get to hold onto it for a little while. Like we did. Most people just have it for longer.”
Brett took another cigarette from her purse and lit it. She had stopped crying. “You know sometimes I wish that I’d never met you. It would all be so much easier,” she said.
“I’ve thought that too.”
“But then I hate myself for thinking that, and I know it isn’t true.”
"I’m glad that we were happy once,” I said. “Even if it wasn’t for very long. At least we knew what it was like to be happy. Not everyone gets that.”
“I thought that being away from you would help. But it never does. I always see you. Even when you’re not there,” she paused. “It isn’t any fun without you.”
“I’m sorry you feel so rotten.”
“Oh, darling, we could have had such a dammed good time together.”
“We still can.”
“Oh, don’t! It’s not fair to say that, Jake. You know it wouldn’t work.”
“We could try.”
“We know how it would end. ”
“No, we don’t.”
“I would just hurt you again.”
“It would be worth it.”
She started crying again and I put my arms around her and pulled her close. I could feel her body shaking. I leaned my head against hers. She felt small and delicate in my arms. I could smell her hair. She pressed her lips to my lips and kissed me. Her face was wet from tears and her lips were salty. I kissed her and held her there in my arms. We stopped kissing and just stood there with our bodies pressed close. We stayed like that. She didn’t push away.
“Let’s be happy again,” I said. “Even if it’s just for a little while.”
I pulled my head back and looked at her. Her tears had made her makeup run and it had smeared in places. I had never seen her more beautiful.
“Yes,” she said. “I want to be happy again.”