Well, I thought that I’d talk about writing styles today. This is mostly because of an experience I had whilst starting a short story project (which I probably won’t post here) a couple of days before writing this article. It had taken me a few days to finally think of a story idea that was good enough to devote a lot of time to writing about but, when I started to write the story, something felt wrong.
It was only a couple of paragraphs later that I realised what it was. The fast-paced informal first-person narrative voice I was using just didn’t work. It didn’t create the atmosphere that I’d been hoping for and it didn’t really do the characters or the location justice.
So, with a sigh, I decided to restart the story and then something suddenly clicked. To my surprise, I found myself using a very different writing style (third-person, slow-paced, present tense etc..) to the ones that I usually use. And it worked!
This made me think about writing styles, because the common wisdom is that each writer should have their own distinctive “style”. There is certainly something to be said for this, since a unique style can not only make your readers more interested but it also sets your stories apart from everyone else’s. It is a way of marking out a story as “yours”, of going from being a mere writer to being an author.
There’s a lot to be said for having your own writing style. But, don’t let it trap you.
Some story ideas will only really “work” when written in a particular way. So, if a story idea isn’t working, then there’s a chance that it is because you aren’t using the right writing style for it. But, how do you find the right writing style for your story?
The short answer is to just try a few writing styles until you find the one that works. Sometimes, a style will suddenly just feel right and, when this happens, don’t question it. Just go with it.
The long answer is that you need to be fairly well-read if you want to find the right writing style for your story. You need to have read lots of books that have been written in lots of different styles. Not only will this teach you which types of writing styles work well with which types of stories, but it will also give you a library of writing styles to mix and match from too.
This makes it a lot easier to choose a style that fits with your story, since you can quickly sum up the style that works as something like “Clive Barker meets Poppy Z. Brite meets Ray Bradbury meets Alice Hoffman” or something like that, which will help you to keep using the style in a consistent way too.
Reading a lot also makes it a lot easier to mix several different writing styles into a new writing style. After all, if you notice that a few authors use writing styles that you really like, then you’re probably going to wonder what they all have in common with each other. And, when you’ve worked out what they have in common, you can then use this information to come up with a new writing style that really works for the story you are trying to tell.
So, yes, if your story isn’t working, then try using a different writing style. Either keep trying different styles until you find one that works or, if you read a lot, just ask yourself “If another author was writing this story, what style would they use?“.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂