What is a Writing Style?
It is the most important and precious thing a writer or author owns. This is what helps us illustrate, immerse, and communicate beyond the normal means of writing. The style each of us has textures us as unique in the ocean of authors out there in the world. It is the flavor we experience when we read between Neil Gaiman, Nora Roberts, J.K. Rowling, JRR Tolkien, Stephanie Meyers, Anne Rice, Stephen King, and so on. Not one of their writing styles feel like the others.
Granted I can’t tell you how to write your story, but I can give you the tools to develop your writing into something stronger. Make you aware of issues and elements that make up a writing style as a whole. I cannot express the importance in developing your own unique voice for storytelling or even conveying information. As a reminder, this is only my own personal advice and thoughts. My goal is simply to share my methods in hopes that it proves useful to other writers and dreamers.
Also, I am so sorry for the length and heaviness of this particular Writing Tips segment. I wanted to break things out so it would be easier to chew, but I can’t imagine not including all of these puzzle pieces that I believe help someone develop their writing style and strengthen their ability to share their story.
Showing versus Telling
Scouring the internet for writing advice and you are going to see the phrase “Show, not tell” a billion times. If you are lucky they give you a great example of what they mean by this phrase. When you are “Telling” in a sentence, paragraph, or even with in dialogue, it can feel detached to a reader. It also can feel like grade school writing or reading as well, where there’s a lack of emotion or sense of being there in the story with the characters or world. When a writer has a well-developed writing style, they pull the reader in by “Showing” us what’s going on in the world and especially their characters. Let’s dive a little deeper and give you some examples of “Telling” and ideas of how you can change it into “Showing”. In short, showing should take advantage of the senses so the reader can relate and interact with the scene or moment.
Example One – Telling:
I sat on the boulder in silence and it was winter time.
Example One – Showing:
Deafened by my thoughts, I sat there on an old boulder, its stone cold and wet with ice where I touched it.
Notice how instead of writing “silence” that its shown by the sensation of the main character being “…deafened by [his] thoughts.” Again, a similar shift happens with the word “winter” where it is expressed with “…cold and wet with ice.” Take a moment and in your mind compare the pictures and sensations created by each version. As a reader, which one put you into the story better? Notice how telling a scene has a bland and disconnected feel as a reader versus showing. When you show in a sentence, you allow the reader to explore the story with their senses: touch, smell, taste, ears and eyes.
Example Two – Telling:
“Aren’t you cold?” The young child asked, interrupting my thoughts. “Are you lost?”
Example Two – Showing:
“Aren’t you cold?” A small voice took me from my thoughts as I failed to break my glare from the dagger. “Are you lost?”
Here I has expressed how telling versus showing in dialogue can make a huge difference. Once more, the depth of immersion and pull on the reader is drastically different. As the writer, should be focused on showing the reader what’s going on, not leave the details vague or worse void of imagery. You can hear a tiny voice, and often we assume someone small or a child. In the telling version, we know his thoughts were interrupted but nothing more. In the showing, the voice “took” the character from his thoughts, but he was still staring at an object of interest. This paints a completely different tone and story. Showing was able to use the reader’s sense of hearing, sight, and touch.
I cannot express the importance of being consistent within your writing piece and story. Nothing irks a reader more than when some part of a story gets changed. This is anywhere from the way a character is described to recalling an event or element incorrectly. Do not be afraid to double check, and don’t assume you remember what you put in Chapter One is what really is in Chapter One.
Another way to be inconsistent is how a name or something is spelled. This covers both fictional or self-made words to actual words. For example, colour versus color. They are both correct, but be sure to pick one, and stick to only that one throughout the entire written piece! Shifting how you spell something will break a reader out of the story or cause the reading to jolt or be clunky.
Lastly, be consistent on how you represent numbers within your written piece. It doesn’t matter if you use “32” or “thirty-two”, as long as all the numerics are represented in the same manner. My recommendation is to always write them out in their word form. Being a very visual person, I find the intrusion of 123 disrupting to my reading flow and breaks me out of my story as if someone threw ice water on me. I know that seems weird, but if you scan over all these paragraphs, you will notice the numbers contained within this one look misplaced and awkward. Another issue in consistency can be formatting. If all the thoughts your character are italicized then DO NOT deviate from that, just like with the issue involving your numbers.
NEXT WEEK PART 2: POV or Perspective including First, third and so forth...