How To Stop Writing Like Hunter S. Thompson

2015 Artwork writing like Hunter S. Thompson sketch

If you write fiction, non-fiction and/or journalism, then there’s a good chance that you’ve run into this problem at least once.

It typically happens during adolescence, but it can happen at any time during your writing career. I am, of course, talking about trying to write like Hunter S. Thompson.

This condition can be picked up from reading any of Thompson’s written works. However, there have been at least a few notable cases reported where contagion occurred from merely watching footage of Thompson himself or even from second-hand portrayals of him by trained actors.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that cases of Thompsonitis peaked during the 1998 theatrical release of “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas“, with the ‘wave speech‘ scene in particular being a strong vector for contagion.

Common symptoms of the condition can include an insatiable desire to use a typewriter rather than a computer, a fondness for loud Hawaiian shirts, a feeling that writing like Hunter S. Thompson is “cool” and a sudden (but hopefully unrealised) desire to take hallucinogenic drugs in the mistaken belief that they will “improve” your writing.

Generally, you will end up with a lot of sub-par writing that is a pale imitation of Hunter S. Thompson’s genius. In the history of this condition, no afflicted writer has ever written anything that surpassed Thompson’s own writing.

Why? Because you aren’t Hunter. S. Thompson! No matter how much you might want to be.

So, what is the cure to this terrible condition?

First of all, the condition will usually fade over time. Although cases of Thompsonitis have been known to last for years, they mostly only last for weeks or months. This usually happens because a writer either gets bored of writing in Thompson’s style, realises that they aren’t very good at it and/or finds another writing style to imitate.

So, if you are currently suffering from Thompsonitis, don’t worry – it will pass.

But, saying this, coming down with a case of Thompsonitis isn’t an entirely bad thing, provided that you learn from the experience. In other words, rather than just trying to copy Hunter S. Thompson’s writing style – you need to take a deeper look at it and see why it is so interesting to read.

In other words, ask yourself “what are the basic qualities of Hunter S. Thompson’s writing? What makes a Hunter S. Thompson book a Hunter S. Thompson book?”.

The basic qualities that make Thompson’s writing style so unique and brilliant include things like an unremittingly cynical disdain for authority, a careful blending of fact and wild imagination, a highly informal (but carefully crafted) tone, a penchant for exaggeration, a fascination with the fringes of society and the willingness to have outspoken political opinions.

These are just a few of the basic qualities that make Thompson’s writing so unique and memorable. And, these qualities are good things – and it’s perfectly ok to imitate them if you really like them. Just find a way to incorporate these qualities into your own personal writing style, rather than trying to copy all of Thompson’s style.

In other words, take the good parts of his style and make them your own. Turn them into something that feels relevant to you.

If you do this – you will end up with something unique, interesting and relevant that people will actually be interested in. Rather than something which will make seasoned writers, creative writing tutors, newspaper editors etc… roll their eyes in frustration at.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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