Writing Styles for Fiction Writers

Writing styles are not something aspiring writers should worry about, although many of them do.

What is style and what is writing style?

style

noun

1. a particular kind, sort, or type, as with reference to form, appearance, or character: the baroque style; The style of the house was too austere for their liking.

Origin:

1250–1300; Middle English (noun) < Latin stylus, spelling variant of stilus, tool for writing, hence, written composition, style; see stylus

stylus

1. an instrument of metal, bone, or the like, used by the ancients for writing on waxed tablets, having one end pointed for incising the letters and the other end blunt for rubbing out writing and smoothing the tablet.

Writing style therefore is simply the way in which you write.

But let's put this in perspective

There are only two main components to writing fiction

  1. The story, (which I cover in great detail in other articles)
  2. How you tell the story, which subdivides into:
    • The sequence of the telling
    • The style of the telling

The Style of the Telling is composed of:

  1. Word choices
  2. From flowery and obscure to simple and common.

  3. Viewpoint
  4. From first person to third person omnipotent.

  5. Sentence structure
  6. Long rambling sentences like Tolstoy or short pithy sentences like Hemingway.

And generally the mixing and blending of description, dialogue, internal monologue, and the word choices, viewpoint, and sentence structure, etc., I mentioned above.

But here's the bottom line.

  • Don't try to copy someone else's style. Your teachers may have been all-a-twitter over Melville, Twain, Poe or London but their styles are dated and won't work with today's audience.
  • Don't try to force it. Style is not something you can fake, affect, or shrug on like a shirt or dress for an hour or two. It's your voice. For better or worse it's part of who you are and flows naturally from how you think and what you think about.
  • Don't worry about your style; it develops naturally over time just like your speaking voice. It's part of your personality.
  • You don't have to worry about trying to develop a style or voice because the truth is you can't hide it. By the time you've written 500 thousand words or so it will be fully developed and as unmistakably you as your finger prints.
  • Your style of writing is really not very important.

"Who cares what a man's style is, so it is intelligible,—as intelligible as his thought. Literally and really, the style is no more than the stylus, the pen he writes with; and it is not worth scraping and polishing, and gilding, unless it will write his thoughts the better for it. It is something for use, and not to look at. The question for us is, not whether Pope had a fine style, wrote with a peacock's feather, but whether he uttered useful thoughts." ~

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau, of course, is speaking of philosophy. But in our case as storytellers, the above still holds true, we just need to modify it slightly:

The question for us is, not whether the storyteller has a fine style, wrote with a peacock's feather, but whether he spun a good yarn.

And here is the most important point. The reading audience doesn't care about your writing style. Really, seriously they don't give a hoot. All they want is a good story told well.

Oh, and for you to keep your writing style from getting in the way of them enjoying the story.

Writing style is far less important than simply creating a good story and telling it well.

Write on...


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