Today’s writing Definition of the Week, as posted on Innovative Editing’s Facebook page, is for “Style.” As in writing style. As in yours.
What is your writing style?
It’s how you write. The attitude you display when you do. The word choices and sentence structure you tend to put down, and how they flow together. How much white space you tend to use, and whether you write with an obvious purpose or if you’re more subtle about displaying your opinions.
Because every writer’s style is distinctive and unique, it’s rather like a literary fingerprint. Though, unlike a fingerprint, it can change. It takes some hard work and conscious thought to change, but you can nonetheless evolve.
Essentially, everyone has a unique way of writing their thoughts down on paper: a final product that’s distinctive from every other writer. So if you gave 10 different writers the same exact outline with the same exact opening line, the same exact bullet points, chapter requirements, character profiles, setting details, etc., you’d still see 10 completely different styles displayed.
That’s because your writing style is your individuality on display, for better and worse.
Here’s just a small sampling with a single opening paragraph:
It was a dark and stormy night when the creature emerged. Long and sinewy, it wound up the banister like a snake even though it did have legs and arms and an intelligent gleam in its bright orange eyes that boded badly for whatever it was after.
It was a dark and stormy night when the creature emerged. It slithered its long and sinewy self around and around the banister in continuous loops that took it ever upward toward whatever unfortunate soul it sought to visit. Though it resembled a mutant snake in so many unseemly ways, what with its elongated body and bright orange eyes that gleamed with malice, the vile beast’s body did, in fact, feature arms and legs. It simply seemed to deem those appendages inconsequential, as it held them close to its torso the whole way up.
It was a dark and stormy night when the creature emerged. Its coils pulsed against the banister. Its orange eyes gleamed. And its slender legs and arms pressed tightly to its long, slim body as it slid further and further toward the second floor.
It was a dark and stormy night when the creature emerged. If ever a nightmare was personified, this being was it. The wretched thing moved with a stealthy, ethereal grace as it twined itself up the polished mahogany banister staircase that had been first established back in Napoleon’s day. Though even such a brute as he could not have conceived the horrendous schemes gleaming in those bright orange eyes. Its arms and legs – for it had a set of each – were pressed tightly into its body, a detail that might have made it more terrifying still. That opinion was difficult to form entirely though when the creature was already so disturbing and displayed such malice in every movement it made.
Feel free to make your own comparisons and contrasts, but I’d say that writing style examples 1 and 3 show a succinct way of establishing the picture, either because they’re raring to get to the action or because they’re short on words in general. Though that single similarity hardly makes them identical, since example 3 relies on more choppy sentences than example 1 chose to use.
Example 2, meanwhile, seems to show a dramatic flair, not to mention a penchant for using slightly old-fashioned terminology. And example 4 is downright pompous, with the author droning on and on and on with more words than necessary.
As an author, your writing style isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Clearly, I’m more attracted to some of the excerpts above more than other ones. And no doubt, you can say the same.
Actually, come to think of it, I suppose it’s safe to say that you can tell just as much about readers’ preferred writing style as writers’ preferred writing style.
Perhaps I’ll have to explore this subject from a reader’s angle sometime soon.