Saturday, November 17, 2012

Writing styles: what style do you want?

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.
So maybe it is a certain use of words.      
The way you create your dialogue.
The personalities of your characters.
Or even the varied descriptions or unique analogies.
Whatever that part of you is that you bring across to the reader. THAT is your style. And that is what will make you who you are in your writing.

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  1. Ahahahahaha, this post comes at just the moment when i realise my NaNovel conflict pretty hard with one key aspect of my usual style. I'm a third-person writer by instinct . . . and now I'm dragging myself kicking and screaming into a first person novel.

    It's . . . shaky. I've not written first person for years, and I'm not used to it. But it gels nicely with the rest of my style, so it's not too bad. Just need practice.

    Fantastic post, by the way. Perfectly expressed. How do you manage to say so much and avoid expressive waffle? TELL ME YOUR WAYS!

    1. Great! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! LOL, I'm not sure. I didn't actually think it was very good.... :D Thank you!

  2. Woot! The very first time I actually thought I could write a little was when I did a letter game with my best friend. I discovered I'm pretty adequate when it comes to writing first person past tense, and I'm fairly good with third person past tense also... but less so.

    Erm.... I am not too fantastic when it comes to writing fantasy. I'm trying my hand at it for NaNo, but it's rough. I may be the only one, but I think modern speech and descriptions in a fantasy novel are UNACCEPTABLE!!!!!!!!!! And I tend to do that without thinking. My usual style is fast paced and corny, and usually too much dialogue. Grrrr.

    ANYWAY, I really liked this post, Caitria. It was really well said. *claps*

    1. Haha!!!!! That sounds fun!!

      It definitely takes a lot of brain power... Keep at it! It's fun! I think it depends on how it is written in. If it is well done, then I think it can pass. But if it is totally raunchy, then I agree. Get out of there...


  3. I'm in favour of letting authors change their styles. I surely didn't start out writing the way I am now! But finding your style is like finding your voice, finding what you want to say -- and becoming a WRITER.

    Because I have different narrators in my book, I have different "voices", but really, the same style. I hope. I guess. Ahh! :) Liked this post. Very clear.

    1. I agree to some extent... You definitely have to figure out what that style is. And it is great to dabble with other styles. Please don't think I am saying you HAVE to write in only one style. For some authors, having lots of styles IS their style. What I mean is you don't want to get stuck in something that is uncomfortable or just doesn't work for you. :D And I totally get having different "voices". I DEFINITELY do!!!

  4. Thanks for the post. Definitely gives me something to think about...

  5. I wrote my first NaNoWriMo novel 2 years ago, and since then I've written several more. I definitely needed to have several novels under my belt to really develop my own find what works for me.

    But every once in a while, it's good to dip out of the norm, and experiment with something else for a while.

    1. Yes, I agree. When I started writing, I used a totally differnt style. It just wasn't me and I have been able to change it now to something much more like what I want.

      I agree!!!! It's fun too!