09 April 2014

Style, Anything But Simple

A few weeks ago, a fellow dance-mom/writer/photographer and friend sent me a link about Writing Style. (Sara is like that, thinking of others.) As I'm a self-taught writer, I'll read anything that might help me get a handle on the process.

The link, found on BrainPicking.org, focused on philosopher Arthur Schopenhaur's take on Writing Style. In a sentence: Keep your Style Simple, and Be True to Yourself.

When I read the 19th century words, with the long sentences with complex clauses and the message repeated in multiple ways, I couldn't help think of the irony: for all his suggestions of brevity and naiveté, his words give the exact opposite effect.

Once I got past that, I'll be honest, I questioned my understanding of style, and more specifically, my own style. (Or lack of one.) What is my style? Do my words convey the picture I want the reader to imagine? Are my readers going to enjoy my writing, my style, my stories?

For a writer still trying to develop a voice, a style, and stories, those are big questions with no easy answers. Like everything else in this writing gig: Style is anything but clear cut or simple.

The writing they teach in primary, middle, and high school is full of adjectives, adverbs, speaking tags other than said and asked, prepositional phrases and clauses abound. However, once it's no longer for a grade but for a royalty check and a best-selling book list, the rules change: Show, Don't tell; No adverbs; No adjectives; Shorten Your Sentences.

To me, it seems that Style is a function of author, story, characters, setting, and plot. There may be signature phrasing and attitudes that link a particular writer's stories, but Style will evolve with a writer. Like one can always tell a Van Halen song from one by Linkin Park or Metallica, or older songs from newer songs. Not only will Style be different every story, it could change based on the feedback from alpha and beta readers, editors, and publishers.

Maybe, I'm getting Style mixed up with Voice, but shouldn't they be linked?

So how does one develop a Style that is Simple and True to Yourself? I don't know. I'll just keep working & writing and trust that it will emerge on its own.

Thanks to Sara P. for the blog fodder and thought provoking link.


Susan Duncan said...

I think of style as in a fashion sense. Some people dress nicely, but are uncomfortable all day. Others wear comfortable clothes and don't really care what others think. Some dress to cover their imperfections. Maybe writing style is like standing naked and trying to figure out where to put the neon lights. An anklet to draw attention to the feet? A band around the belly? Or perhaps a noose around the neck?

Anne Velosa said...

Susan, Love "noose around the neck"!

Lynn Viehl said...

To me style is an encompassing definition, while voice is a specific-to-something tone. I'd compare it to fashion, where retro is a style but how one person puts together any outfit is voice.

I use several different voices when writing -- I fit them to whatever genre I'm working in -- but my style is in how I tell the story, which I think is consistent no matter what genre I work in.

I could be interpreting the terms incorrectly, of course, but that's what happens when you're self-taught. :)

Anne Velosa said...

Thanks, Lynn. Your style and voice definitions make sense to me. (Finally something that makes sense!) It's nice to know that I'm not the only one self-taught.