May at Forever and Everly wrote a post* about “How Much Should We Really Trust Book Reviews and/or Reviewers??? #trustissues.” 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…
Here is part 2 to understanding WHY…!
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)!
Toolkit: Writing Style
Readers throw around the phrase writing style all the time in their reviews. Ask a writer what writing style means and you will get a variety of answers…
“It’s a writer’s particular point of view, hence the advice to write what we know. If a story lacks conviction about the subject matter there is no style.”
Ask another and they will say “style is craftsmanship… it is placing the right words in their proper place so that things are said a certain way.”
Many writers feel “style is simply their stamp on the material.”
All three of these have aspects that are true about writing style…
So what is writing style?
Each writer puts their own stamp on their words through their choices. By examining four principle styles we can see how a writer using different writing methods affects their prose.
4 Principle Writing Styles
Who uses it? Think Nora Roberts!
What is it? Follows the basic rules and principles of fiction writing and prose. There are references to sensory descriptions of sight, sound, taste, smell and feel.
How does it use prose? Balanced use of telling (expository) and showing (narrative) in an effort to form a connection between the POV character and the reader (the persuasive part of prose).
Benefit of the style? Ease of reading it, balance makes it effortless.
Weakness of the style? It’s so basic that creativity and depth must be developed or the story feels like something you’ve read in the past. There aren’t any design details that make the style stand out from the pack and at the same time there is nothing to hide any flaws!
Who uses it? Think Laini Taylor!
What is it? The author takes the reader by the hand and escorts them through every aspect of the story so they feel as the author felt when writing it. Balance takes a back seat in favor of using whichever method illustrates the author’s thoughts best.
How does it use prose? The descriptive aspect of prose is amped up with extra metaphors and long strings of descriptive words that not only add to the physical world but also reference the emotions of the characters.
Benefit of the style? Power of emotions drawing them through the story making it a favorite among readers.
Weakness of the style? The narrative can become quite heavy when too much of any one element is used. Too much description, heavy. Too much telling, heavy. Too much internal angst, heavy. And all this heaviness equals slow or boring moments.
Who uses it? Think Rainbow Rowell!
What is it? The narrative is deliberately powerful so the POV character takes center stage and does all the persuading.
How does it use prose? The descriptions aren’t amped up, rather pop culture references and societal issues are used so the character is extremely relatable to the reader. Summarizing events is common so the character can tell the reader how they felt. Dialogue is much of what makes up the showing.
Benefit of the style? The intimate connection between protagonist and the reader through a shared head space and understanding.
Weakness of the style? A propensity to be in the head too much! Summarizing can take over and it all becomes telling with zero showing. Without plot there is no journey.
Who uses it? Think Lee Child!
What is it? This style is stark and minimal in details unnecessary to the premise and the plot. Characterization takes a back seat as much of what relates to them is inferred through the details of their circumstances and suggested through their experiences.
How does it use prose? Events drive what telling there is and relies on the situations that arise to show character and internal motivations.
Benefit of the style? The reader is able to immerse themselves into the experience through the character’s circumstances.
Weakness of the style? When characters aren’t given enough detail to make them feel like individuals. We are told they are different because they are the ONLY ONE WHO CAN _______ (fill in the blank!) Whatever the situation needs the character can do it but there isn’t enough back history or understanding for us to believe it is anything more than coincidence.
What did we learn…?
We can see from this exercise that PROSE is what a writer crafts and STYLE is how the writer executes it.
Imagine Prose as a detailed map of the story.
Writing style then is the path the writer takes to get the reader from where they are to London.
Some fly in quick and easy. Some take a scenic cruise ship, long and languishing. Others backpack with a friend through Scotland first. And others hit road block after road block until they finally arrive for the big show.
No one way is more or less correct than another. But I may prefer to backpack rather than take the cruise. …Or not.
So what is Writing Style?
Prose has specific functions that to varying degrees are or aren’t used in a writer’s writing style. Whether you LOVE a writing style or not is all dependent on whether you enjoy the way they use the functions of prose. Hence…
Style is the distinctive way a writer uses the functions of prose when designing a narrative.
Of course a writer’s point of view will come to bear on these choices. And craftsmanship or the use of words will dictate how a reader responds to the style. This is when storycraft comes into play… but that’s for next time!
Instead of struggling with WHY…
By incorporating these two basic tenets into our reviews we’ll make ourselves MORE TRUSTWORTHY BOOKWORMS…
Exposition, description, persuasion and narrative are key to delivering a story’s complete message. Missing one of these? Then the prose is poor.
Even if the prose is poor or even imperfect YOU CAN STILL ENJOY THE AUTHOR’S WRITING STYLE!!
Following these will make us more confident when writing our reviews, like this…
Which writing style do you prefer reading? Is there a style weakness that annoys you?
Do you struggle with WHY?
Thank for Reading XOXO
*Inspired my post’s title!!