Now, do not take this at face value, kids. I am not suggesting for a single moment that one should just shamelessly lift things from accomplished novelists, because that is plagiarism.
However, I would like to make a suggestion if you’re looking to improve your narrative voice and expand upon your own themes and techniques. Write an original story imitating the works of an author you admire.
Properly. As in, all your own words and imagining you are another author coming up with a story they might tell. Not just mad-libbing one of the author’s pieces. You’d be amazing the weirdness that can transpire from this. You get to think about how you write and how to control your own narrative voice through trying to get a handle on someone else’s.
Anything from flash fiction to a short story to a poem is good for this exercise. Just get thinking about what kinds of characters they use and what messages they have; the atmosphere, voice and dialogue.
Sometimes it produces different results, too – like revealing other influences on your writing. For example, I recently wrote a story attempting to imitate Edgar Allan Poe’s style of horror. Then, as I wrote it, it took on a completely new meaning and interpretation because I realised I was mixing some Murakami in there too. So even when you try to control what you write, it’s amazing who else comes to the party.
Give it a shot. It’s challenging, but illuminating.