A friend recently told me about jazz. Jazz musicians, he said, spend years learning the rules of music for one reason:
So they know how to break them.
While they play, the goal is to create something like a musical graph with a hundred different random points all over it. But, if the musician is good, you can see a line tracing through the graph that looks something like what we laymen know as music.
You have to know the rules to break them.
You also have to be willing to break the rules.
On Saturdays, we at the Write Practice break the rules.
Don’t Write Like a Child
On Monday we talked about how to imitate James Joyce’s childlike prose. Joyce is one of the seminal writers of fiction, and we, as aspirants, would do well to learn from him.
However, learning and imitating is for weekdays. Today we’re going to do the opposite.
We’re going to quit writing like a child.
No more enthusiasm.
No more wonder.
No more animals, fairy tales, funny nicknames.
We’re going to write like boring, pipe smoking, tweed jacket-wearing, university professors.
How to Write Like a University Professor
You might ask why you’d want to write like a university professor. A valid question, and under normal circumstances, I’d tell you to avoid it. But today is Saturday, so I can’t.
You might write like a university professor because you want to sound smart.
Or to make other people sound stupid.
Or maybe because one of your characters actually is a university professor.
But hopefully not because you are a university professor, because that would be embarrassing for me since I just called you boring.
Anyway, here’s an example from Matrix Revolutions which had a professor-like character called the Architect:
You have many questions, and although the process has altered your consciousness, you remain irrevocably human. Ergo, some of my answers you will understand, and some of them you will not. Concordantly, while your first question may be the most pertinent, you may or may not realize it is also irrelevant.
How do you write like a university prof? The short answer is you write about boring, abstract concepts in really long, complicated sentences while using big, technical words.
Concordantly? I’d love to hear someone use that in real life.
One easy tip is to use big words up front, preferably adverbs: similarly, tangentially, philosophically, platonically, ecclesiastically. Anything ending in ly.
You never knew rule breaking and imitating professors would go hand in hand, did you? Yep, things get crazy here at the Write Practice. Let’s get to it.
Practice writing like a university professor.
Our subject: the nature of dog fur.
Be as abstract, technical, and scholarly as possible. If it helps, think of yourself wearing those strange gowns from the Middle Ages that professors wear during graduation ceremonies.
Write for fifteen minutes, and post it in the comments.