New Feature Alert! Whereas my writing partner excels at laying words on a page in a pretty and persuasive way, my strength as a writer is my ability to edit… (i.e. arrange, revise, and prepare the written word). Hence my blog!! I need to be able to gather and put my thoughts on the page… now that I’ve gotten that “skill” down let me share a little of my other skill…
Lighting a Writer’s Toolkit is a feature where I share thoughts that would be beneficial for writers of reviews or books, all connected to EDITING (…my favorite part of writing #sorrynotsorry)!
The idea for this feature came quite by accident. There I was minding my own business on Goodreads (trolling for new books to add to my massive TBR list #kiddingnotkidding) and here comes a review of Strange the Dreamer! I just finished reviewing that book I thought… I wonder if they thought the writing was heavy?!
When we write reviews there is a toolkit of words that we use when talking about a book. Words such as pacing, point of view, narrative, characterization, plot… just to name a few. There are two mega-stars we reach for every time and those are prose and writing style!!
It’s not, really! #basic #easy #promise …I’m going to take a different term or idea each post and shed some light on it’s place in the writer’s toolkit…
You probably haven’t given a lot of thought about the difference between prose and writing style. After all reviewers and even writers use them rather interchangeably… but they actually represent two different but connected roles in the writing of a book. Let’s start with prose…
Writer’s Toolkit: Prose
Did you ever read the Iliad or the Odyssey by Homer in English class?! It’s like one gigantic poem… Did you get sick of it? I DID!! And swiftly too… so I’m not surprised that back in the day people started to get sick of the way writing was written… in poems. And they wanted a NEW way… that is where prose comes in.
Prose is simply writing that is similar to the way we really talk except that there are full sentences used with proper punctuation. NO MORE POEM stories!!
So when a reviewer says they LOVE the prose it makes sense that what you are saying is that you like the way the story was written. But prose is MORE than that… (really!! I am NOT kidding you this time…)
Note: These functions are for the purpose of talking about the prose in fiction books or stories. These are not your textbook breakdowns (i.e. don’t study these for a test!!) Thank you for understanding ❤
4 Functions of Prose
At its most basic the purpose of a story is to share, through the written word, the happenings of characters as if they were real people moving through a real world. That purpose is fulfilled through prose. These four functions are key to delivering a story’s complete message.
Expository (i.e. exposing the world)
This part of prose is all about relaying information. All stories have ideas that need to be explained so that the reader understands how they relate to the character and the world. This type of information is the stuff the author TELLS us.
This can happen through dialogue, through the POV character sharing with the reader or events where information can be relayed in a natural environment. When this sharing of information is cliched and clumsily done we call it INFO DUMPING!
Descriptive (i.e. sensing the world)
This is pretty self explanatory… this part of prose describes something with pertinent details. Specifically. The 5 SENSES should be put to work… helping you visualize what the character sees, hears, tastes, smells, and feels!
Physical landscapes are formed, features swim into focus, actions and movements come to life… situations, locations and environments all described in a manner that has enough detail for a VISION to develop in the mind of the reader.
Persuasive (i.e. focusing the world)
Everything in a fiction book is run through a character or a point of view. The author’s own opinions can bleed through but the point is for the POV character(s) to persuade us that their view of their world is the right one! Persuasive prose does this…
We obviously don’t get into a debate with the character…We don’t expect them to lay out evidence nor to weigh the pros and cons of their ideas and viewpoints. At the same time that is EXACTLY what we expect. We want to be persuaded that their POV is RELATABLE with proper MOTIVATION making it worth the journey!!
Narrative (i.e. moving through the world)
Now everyone is probably familiar with this function of prose. We are talking about the basic plot, the story line. These are the events that make up the story and which happen to the characters.
A passage of time is explored and events set out. This is SHOWING. Much exposition can mix with a narrative as the course of events are explored. Description of the surroundings and people is woven in as they come up. And we learn what the character is thinking as they experience the narrative.
Narrative prose should bring the other three types together to form the story! It should in an entertaining and moving way answer the question: “What happened then?”
The Enemy of Prose
When one of these 4 functions fails or is poorly executed then the prose is poor too! Sometimes the exposition part of the writing is so fresh that we overlook that the narrative or events of the story didn’t work at all. At other times the lyrical prose overwhelms our senses and we disregard the info dumps and lack of character motivation.
More often than not though a book has been the victim of the enemy of prose… dun, dun, dun — cliche. There are many names for this enemy… worn tropes, stereotypes, unoriginal. It boils down to a lack of creativity!
YES! Then the ally to prose is imagination… This can be a fresh take on an old idea, it can be a more specific or unique POV, it can be developing a world in a totally different direction. You see the buzz words: fresh, specific, unique, different.
So Writing Style…?
Yeah… I can’t explain that here… this post is long enough! The point though of understanding prose is this…
Even if the prose is poor or even imperfect YOU CAN STILL ENJOY THE AUTHOR’S WRITING STYLE!!
BUT… you talked about becoming more trustworthy… DANI! YOU MADE A PROMISE!
May at Forever and Everly wrote a post* about “How Much Should We Really Trust Book Reviews and/or Reviewers??? #trustissues” If you haven’t read this yet then you should! It makes some really good points about reviewers… What I took away from it is that READERS (aren’t we ALL ONE!?) struggle to put into words WHY…
Why didn’t I like the writing!? Why was the beginning slow but the end perfect?! Why didn’t I care that it was ALL TELLING?! ETC, ETC…
We ALL know these struggles… But now YOU GOT THIS!!
Through knowledge of prose you can better state your argument about WHY! You know the 4 functions of prose and that if a story is creative then you can overlook a few prose issues! Or if the prose is really great but you still didn’t enjoy it that much you know that it was probably cliched…
I’m no teacher, I’m better at doing than explaining but I hope that this helps?! What do you think about this feature? Did it make sense? Did you read May’s discussion? What do you think about my new comment graphic?** (It’s a work in progress…)
NEXT TIME… I’ll delve into writing style and why it’s different from prose…
Thank for Reading XOXO
*Inspired my post’s title!! **Totally inspired by Ilsa @ A Whisper of Ink! Thanks ❤