Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Developing Your Writing Style
Loosely, the definition of writing style is: The ability to write in a unique manner, clearly, effectively, and with a readable rhythm that makes the work sound right to the ear.
We all have our favorite writers when it comes to style. Jodie Picoult, Amy Tan, Toni Morrison, Dean Koontz, James Patterson, Lisa Gardner, Wally Lamb. So many excellent writers, and not one of them writes like another, they've honed their writing skills over many years to develop their unique style. As writers, we usually read those whose work reflects the kind of writing we want to do. We take note of how our favorite authors achieve their colorful figures of speech, their flavor, their rhythm, without considering how many words these people have written in order to find their voice.
Style is a matter of choice. There are writers who are terse, blunt, or brisk. There are those whose words flow like untroubled waters. It's our own preferences -- and I would think, our personalities -- that for the most part dictates our writing style.
Technically, writing style involves both addition and subtraction. It involves subtracting words and phrases that clutter or muddy the meaning. When editing, cut all those fusty, pompous, or complex passages. Replace them with simple, clear, lively and engaging words and phrases. Or, if the passages are unnecessary, don't even bother to replace them. Cut out everything that isn't story.
Style also involves adding the perfect combination of words, when necessary, to express something in a way that moves the reader either emotionally, or in an Ah Ha, I get it now! way.
A pleasing style is one of continuing originality, using fresh, arresting word visions, with little twists of surprise in the manner of syntax. Avoid rare, difficult words, trite sentences, and cliches that are stale from overuse. There are times, however, when a cliche works, when the writer is sharp enough to use a cliche in a "tongue in cheek" (sorry) manner simply to point out that it is a cliche, especially when uttered by a cliche character.
In a previous post "Enhancing Your Fiction with Figurative Language", I offered a list of figures of speech that add flavor to writing. These devices, such as alliteration, assonance, consonance, personification, and many more -- are all language forms that can create a trademark writing style, adding flow, harmony, and grace.
Short sentences make more impact. Longer sentences smooth things out, and offer a lull in action so that the reader can relax and look around the fascinating world you've created for them.
Twist it. Turn it upside down. Let it go. Pull it back. Invent new words, play with old words. Punctuate it your way.