The Copycat Method: Douglas Adams

23 May 2013

  Image by UppityRib

I recently heard that May 25th is ‘Towel Day’. Very strange name for a holiday, isn’t it?


But if you’ve read Douglas Adams’s book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (or if you’ve seen the movie), you can probably guess what Towel Day is about.


In the Guide, you learn that a towel is the most useful item to bring if you’re planning to travel throughout the galaxy. So to honor the memory of Douglas Adams, his fans from around the world carry a towel with them on May 25th.


A model to learn from

Douglas Adams was an amazing writer, and we can all learn much from his work. He was a master storyteller and had a wicked sense of humor.


But instead of carrying a towel around with you this Saturday, how about doing something a bit more useful for your development as a writer? Try copying some of his writing – using the copycat method.


You can copy from one of his books or from some of the quotes below (after you’ve stopped laughing). 


On Becoming an Author

First of all, realize that it's very hard, and that writing is a grueling and lonely business and, unless you are extremely lucky, badly paid as well. You had better really, really, really want to do it. Next, you have to write something.”
 (The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time. Macmillan, 2002)


Dogs and Writers

Victoria told me that once, when coming to visit me, she had tried to throw a ball for Maggie and Trudie to chase. The dogs had sat and watched stony-faced as the ball climbed up into the sky, dropped, and at last dribbled along the ground to a halt. She said that the message she was picking up from them was ‘We don't do that. We hang out with writers.’

Which was true. They hung out with me all day, every day. But, exactly like writers, dogs who hang out with writers don't like the actual writing bit. So they would moon around at my feet all day and keep nudging my elbow out of the way while I was typing so that they could rest their chins on my lap and gaze mournfully up at me in the hope that I would see reason and go for a walk so that they could ignore me properly.” 
(Animal Passions, edited by Alan Coren. Robson Books, 1994)


On Deadlines

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
 (The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time. Macmillan, 2002)


On Tenses and Time Travel 
[a tongue-in-cheek description of English tenses]

One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of becoming your own father or mother. . . .

The major problem is simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveler's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you, for instance, how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations while you are actually traveling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own mother or father.
Most readers get as far as the Future Semiconditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up; and in fact in later editions of the book all pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction, pausing only to note that the term "Future Perfect" has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be.” 
(The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Pan Books, 1980)



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