First off, we’ve all heard this fancy word. But have we ever stopped to think about what style is? And just how it relates to our writing?
I took the liberty of looking it up and here were four different definitions that popped up.
arts distinctive form: a distinctive and identifiable form in an artistic medium such as music, architecture, or literature
· a facade in the neoclassical style
· a different style of jazz
way of doing something: a way of doing something, especially a way regarded as expressing a particular attitude or typifying a particular period (often used in combination)
· a hands-on management style
· old-style politics
· Confrontation just isn’t his style.
way of writing or performing: the way in which something is written or performed as distinct from the content of the writing or performance
publishing: publishing conventions: the ways in which written material is presented, usually in a particular publication or by a particular publisher
· editing text into the publisher’s house style
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2004. © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation.
“What counts as good writing varies from culture to culture and even among groups within cultures. In some situations, you will need to become familiar with the writing styles – such as direct or indirect, personal or impersonal, plain or embellished – that are valued by the culture or discourse community for which you are writing.” A Writer’s Reference, Diana Hacker; Fourth Edition
In my opinion, styles are like accents. You can pick and choose among a million different ones.
They may all sound nice, cool even, but you can’t mix and match. You will end up with a manuscript that is painful to read, just like hearing a man switch from Scottish to Russian to Australian to British to French accents within one sentence would be painful to hear ~ and a little confusing. (If you can understand what he said, I’ll give you a star that says genius in big gold letters!)
That is why it is important every writer knows right off that you have your individual style. You are native to only one. You have to settle with the one you are most comfortable with, the one that flows out of your blood. It is your own, and no one else’s. It may fall under different categories, systems, or “personalities” of writing. But it is who you are, what you have created, not what you have heard. It is what makes him unlike all other writers.
You can learn to write this way or that, but it doesn’t mean it will sound real. If you are painstakingly writing every word, the reader will know it. A good reader can smell out a fake after a first few sentences. Writers talk on and on about making sure the reader falls in love with your protagonist and your story right away. But they forget that the very means to do that is through the way you write it. Your style.
So what makes your style anyway?
Think about all of the great writers. Dickens. Tolkien. C.S. Lewis. Louisa May Alcott. Writers that everyone can identify. What do you think of when you hear their names? What is it that makes them stand out, different, from anyone else? That is their style, their voice, what makes them who they are. And this is our goal.
The way you create your dialogue.
The personalities of your characters.
Or even the varied descriptions or unique analogies.