Writing Style

It’s been a while since I blogged about writing and for that I do ask you bear with me.  One does tend to get rusty when they’re made of metal and sit in the rain…  Oh, that’s not what the phrase was supposed to mean.  Kind of.  Well, rest assured (because I know you’re worried) I did NOT leave my laptop in the rain nor, for that matter, did I leave my lovely new notebook out there (the paper kind).  Writing about writing, heck even TALKING about writing lately, is not something I’ve been doing.  Luckily, I have been writing at least.

And to that end I broke a rule recently.  I was going to not have anyone read sections of it until it was completed and edited, but I had hubby read a few pages.   What he said struck me, mostly because as a reader it would have stood out to me as well.  I think.  The style was lyrical, not visceral, and therefor kept him from having a gut reaction to something that seemed like it was heading there.

Again, I invoke McCarthy (because, damn it, The Road was amazing AND it’s the only piece of literature I can think of right now that demonstrates this).  You see, that work was unusual in structure and it worked to bring you away from your world and into the one he built.  Not merely intellectual transportation, but it makes one feel off kilter, out of place, and maybe a bit frightened in this place you’ve never been before.  It’s how one should feel when in a nuclear winter (I should think – I really hope to never find this out first hand).  So, is lyrical a bad thing when discussing bad things?  Or alluding to bad things?  I admit to not being uniform in this aspect. Other areas of the work are more sparse and pretty much forbid any sugar coating notions to form.

This leaves me wondering a few things:  First, does the prose style need to be uniform throughout the entire piece?  Second, Assuming it doesn’t need to be, then what is it you as a reader prefer?  Or, if you’re a writer, what do you prefer practicing in your own works?


20 responses to “Writing Style

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  • Barb

    First answer: no, I’ve seen books shifting from first to third person, using different styles (like email, diary, newspaper AND prose all mixed up – I’ve done it too, putting e-mails in prose stories) and whatever mix came to the author’s mind.
    Second: as a reader I prefer something “easier” to read with events told in chronological order, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate something written differently.
    Third: as a writer, I tend to follow a logical/chronological order and very very rarely use first person, but that’s my choice! 🙂
    Happy reading and writing!

  • Laura Marcella

    I’ve read books when the prose style changes. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. As a reader, I prefer the same prose style, but I’m always up for reading something different, so I definitely will read an experimental novel. As a writer, I maintain the same prose style. I’m not experienced and knowledgeable enough yet to break the rules!

    • kimberlyloomis

      Laura – Very, very true. Some authors switch POV’s and don’t switch prose styles which often leaves me a bit more baffled. I like the different voices and without it a POV switch can be difficult to really grasp.

  • laurelrainsnow

    I like a little uniformity, but not to a great extent. As a reader, I most enjoy the books that flow smoothly and carry me along into the settings and the story. Even if the writer goes from present to past, and back again, I don’t mind, as long as I can follow the journey fairly easily. There needs to be something that tells the reader where we’re going.

    As for point of view, I like things mixed up a bit, but again, only if I know what is happening. Recently, I’ve read books that are all first person, but shifting between characters without a clear guidebook to who is “speaking.” That I don’t enjoy.

    I usually write third person narrative, shifting between characters, but my current WIP uses the first person voice for the primary character and third person for the others.

    I’m not sure how this will work out, but so far, I’m moving forward.

    Thanks for this intriguing post.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Laurel – That sounds like a challenging layout for your wip. I definitely look foward to seeing how it turns out. 🙂

      My POV changes are actually based upon sections with each being clearly marked. Can’t miss the shift and I stay consistent through out each. No bouncing back and forth. The lyrical part of the prose seems to come about in the description of the scenery as well as emotional turmoil. It flows well, but I don’t know that I’ll know how it actually works until I have the whole thing finished. [All in chronological order, btw.]

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Hart

    I guess it depends on HOW it’s lyrical… if it is word choice and cadence then I think the beauty of the language can make a really striking contrast to the events (I suggest The God of Small Things for a gorgeous example of HORRIBLE events told in BEAUTIFUL language and it really did make it all the more awful–the events I mean, so it moved me more). But often lyrical can mean a lot of descriptive stuff, and that pulls me OUT of the story. I can like pretty words, but I’m not going to have the same story impact.

    As for changes in a story? Maybe. If there is a REASON… maybe a different character’s PoV is much more lyrical than anothers? Maybe things thought in dreams or in a certain state? I really would only do it if you can pinpoint a ‘why here but not there’.

    As for my preference… simple language, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful. I really do love stunning word choice… just not too MANY of them. It’s possible this is an attention span issue (though I can delightedly read a thousand page book)–I am a reader that reads EVERY WORD. I don’t skim. So if there is too much that is strictly aesthetics between what is happening, i will get lost.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Hart – Thanks for the recommendations! Will definitely check them out.

      Lyrical in this instance is truly a commitment to the word choice and cadence as well as describing the scenery. Each bit of scenery described is vital to the world and, subsequently, to the story [sometimes it’s the back story of the character, but that is done sparingly as well]. I also really tried hard to take down the verbosity and go for the least amount of words I could use to convey what I wanted to. Looks like this will be three or four sections, three of them being different points of view (first POV was more succinct and sparse, second is lyrical). Aiming to keep this a pretty moderately sized work, too, so no 1000 page tome from me (yet)!

      Thanks for your input!

  • litlove

    There can be changes in voice, but I think they have to be well motivated. Either because point of view shifts through different characters, or because the text is a patchwork, like Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. If you are writing for publication purposes, then be aware that for first novels, publishers like coherence. They like the book to be about one thing, and written in one, conventional way. I have fallen on this particular sword on several occasions, now!

    As for lyrical AND emotional, I suggest you read a little Colette. One of the most lyrical writers I know, and she still manages to pack a punch. Try Cheri or The Ripening Seed. I think it’s possible to do anything with any particular style, it’s just a question of finding the right things to write about (and that’s very difficult). Good luck! My husband is the first person I turn to for a critique. He is unfailingly accurate in his readings, but kind, too, which helps!

    • kimberlyloomis

      litlove – Excellent words and recommendations! Thanks a bunch!

      Yeah, I have no idea the luck I’ll have with this one, but I’m really hoping the plot will be intriguing enough to garner some attention. The plot is focused and each pov is consistent unto themselves. Time shall tell, I suppose.

  • Helen Ginger

    I would say … the writing needs to fit the mood or atmosphere you’re creating. Light when it’s humorous or two people are having a witty conversation, for example. Fast and clipped when you need to show action. And so on.

  • Carol Kilgore

    I think the prose style should fit the story and the character. So if one character tells the entire story, the prose style should remain consistent. If you have multiple points of view, however, multiple prose styles can work – with a different style from each. My opinion.

  • Arlee Bird

    I prefer a prose style to remain the same for certain characters or aspects of story. A different voice, or style shift, is okay as applied appropriately to other characters or settings. I thinks it’s good to have shifts into humor or absurdity or some other tone in order to break the pacing some, especially if a novel’s overall mood is somber or serious. However, in a case such as The Road a steady level of mood does work since that is the nature of the story. It’s all relative to what an author is ultimately trying to achieve.

    Tossing It Out

    • kimberlyloomis

      Lee – Very good words. I’ve been toying with some humor in this piece, but it wouldn’t fit. The best I could do so far was to inject moments of joy and beauty since the contrast is so great.

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  • Jan

    I tend to like books I can’t put down. These are generally the ones the show the story through action and tell the story through dialogue. But they need to teach me why I should be reading them. What can I learn? What feelings can be evoked? etc. I hope this is useful.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Jan – Knowing what draws a reader in is always useful. Thank you. Your words also have me wondering about the definition of action as it pertains to this style. Much happens, but in the popular usage of the word I don’t know that this work quite fits the bill.

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