Finding The Right Writing Style For Your Story – A Ramble

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?“.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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One Reason Why Having Your Own Writing Or Art Style Matters

Even though this is a short article about writing and making art, I’m going to have to start by talking about music for a few paragraphs. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

Although I haven’t really listened to that much rap music, I recently listened to Tinie Tempah’s “Disc-Overy” album and really enjoyed it (after getting nostalgic about a couple of songs from it I first heard about eight or nine years ago), not to mention that it also showed me something about the value of having a unique “style”.

In addition to Tinie Tempah’s voice/musical style, the humour, rhymes and instrumental elements (eg: 1980s synth music etc..) on the album’s best tracks really stand out 🙂 What this all means is that you can instantly recognise a Tinie Tempah song whenever you hear one, even if you aren’t an expert on the genre or haven’t heard that particular song before.

Or, to give another rap-related example, although I’ve only seen a few modern music videos by Dizzee Rascal – his music videos have often this really cool “1980s/90s movie” style to them. Whether it is the ludicrously gruesome 1980s horror movie parody music video for “Couple Of Stacks” or the macabre hilarity of the 1990s Cockney gangster movie-style music video for “Bop N Keep It Dippin”, these are about a million miles away from a typical mainstream music video and they are absolutely awesome 🙂

So, why have I spent a few paragraphs talking about rap music?

One of the many benefits of having a unique style is that it allows you to appeal to people who aren’t typically fans of the genre that you’re making stuff in. It means that people who don’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge of your genre can still go “Ah, I recognise this!” when they encounter something that you’ve made.

Having your own unique style also helps to appeal to people who are more interested in other genres because the best way to find your own unique style is to have influences from outside of your chosen genre.

One side-effect of this is that people who like other stuff might also like your stuff because it includes elements of their favourite genres too. In other words, it means that you’ll have something in common with more than just enthusiastic fans of your genre.

For example, the Dizzee Rascal music videos I mentioned earlier have a wonderfully twisted sense of humour that will be recognisable to anyone who loves horror movies, heavy metal music etc.. And, as such, even if you’re more of a fan of other genres of music, the videos are still absolutely awesome because they’re a modern tribute to the “edgy” and “controversial” cinema of the past.

So, yes, finding your own unique writing style, art style etc.. is important because it can expand your audience beyond just fans of your favourite genre.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Does Your Fiction Writing Style Change If You Haven’t Practiced For Quite A while? – A Ramble

2017 Artwork Does Your Writing Style Change article sketch

Last Halloween, I got back into writing fiction after spending a while (probably less than a year) where I didn’t really write prose fiction. Before that, I’ve had other times where I didn’t write fiction for 1-2 years.

So, I thought that I’d look at the question of whether your writing style changes if you don’t write fiction for a while.

In short, it both does and doesn’t. When I wrote my Halloween stories, I noticed that they contained a mixture of writing styles rather than just one consistent “style”.

Several of them contained elements from various older versions of my writing styles – for example, this story sounds a lot like something I would have written in 2009-10 and this one sounds like a slightly improved version of something I would have written in 2005-7.

As well as this, some stories also sometimes contained elements from the slightly formal style that I use when I write these daily articles. This was especially interesting, since I found that I could write some stories a lot quicker if I made them sound a bit like a non-fiction article (like I did in this story and this one).

Not only that, my regular non-fiction writing and art/comic making practice also meant that I had all sorts of techniques for dealing with writer’s block/ uninspired moments that I didn’t have when I used to see myself primarily as a fiction writer.

So, some skills can transfer from other creative things that you may have been doing instead of writing fiction. This may or may not affect your writing style.

In the end, whether your writing style will or won’t change if you haven’t written any fiction for a while all comes down to experience and practice. If you’ve been doing other writing-related things in the meantime, then this will probably have some effect on your writing style.

Likewise, if you’ve read anything that uses a writing style that you really like, then parts of that style are probably going to seep into your own writing style when you get back into writing again.

However, if you’re out of practice, then your natural instinct will probably be to “pick up where you left off”. In other words, it’s very likely that you won’t completely lose or forget your old writing style. Because of all of your past experience with writing, you’re probably going to unconsciously end up using a similar style to the styles that you used to use.

Plus, if you haven’t practiced for a while, then your style is probably going to have all of the same flaws that it used to have. In my case, this is an annoying tendency to use rather “functional” narration if I’m writing fast. Likewise, I sometimes tend to over-use certain descriptions and sentence structures. So, you’ll probably end up keeping most of the flaws from your original style if you’re out of practice.

In addition to all of this, you have to take the fact that you haven’t practiced into account too. If you practice a skill regularly, then it soon becomes fast, fluent and intuitive. It becomes something that is almost second nature.

This feeling can go away a bit if you haven’t practiced for a while. As such, don’t expect the very first thing you write after you haven’t written for a while to be as flowing, eloquent or polished as the things you used to write.

Getting back to that level of skill and that distinctive style may take a little bit of practice, although it’ll probably take considerably less time that you would have to spend if you had no prior experience.

Still, this is probably different for everyone. I’ve been talking a lot about my own experiences and trying to find general lessons in them. But, I guess that the only real way to see if your style has changed or not is to try writing something.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Can You Lose Your Narrative Voice?

2015 Artwork Can You Lose Your Narrative Voice article sketch

Although I’ll mostly be talking about my own writing and creative work in this article, there will hopefully be more to it than just introspective naval-gazing. But, if you’re not interested in reading any of that (and I don’t blame you) then I’d recommend skipping to the last two paragraphs.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I’ve got to the point where I see myself more as an artist than a writer. Now that I’ve had a few years of practice at painting and drawing, I find that turning the contents of my imagination into paintings is far more intuitive, swift and satisfying than trying to shoehorn them into a narrative or translate them into words.

As such, although I retain all of the theoretical knowledge I’ve learnt from years of writing practice and although I can easily dissect the things that I read and watch in order to learn more about storytelling, my actual skills as a (fiction) writer have atrophied like a starving zombie in a secret laboratory somewhere.

A while before I wrote this article, I was randomly surfing the internet when I happened to find a few articles about the horror genre and horror fiction. This was my favourite genre of fiction during my teens and, hell, one of the reasons I first got into writing fiction was because I wanted to be a splatterpunk author.

So, naturally, my next thought was “I should try writing some horror fiction. Just a quick short story to prove that I’ve still ‘got it’.”

So, I fired up WordPad and, after a couple of attempts, I managed to write a dramatic first sentence. It read: “The sky was the colour of three-day dried blood, deep black and shiny as obsidian“.

Then…. nothing. I froze.

Not only did I realise that I had no clue who the narrator was or what would happen next, I also noticed that my narrative voice didn’t quite feel “right”.

It felt awkward, heavy, leaden and pretentious. It sounded like the kind of thing muttered by the perpetually-glum protagonist of a modern Hollywood movie. It didn’t have the “bounce” that my narrative voice used to have when I used to write fiction more regularly.

My narrative voice didn’t have the “personality” that it used to have back when I could proudly call myself a fiction writer. I started to wonder if I’d lost my narrative voice altogether, if – like some wispy ethereal spirit, it had vanished into the shadows – never to be seen again.

These days, on the rare occasions that I feel like I have a story worth telling or an idea that could turn into an interesting story – it often emerges from me in comic form rather than as fiction. Kind of like this:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Dead Sector - Page 5" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Dead Sector – Page 5” By C. A. Brown

But, the funny thing is that I can still see traces of my old narrative voice in these comics – they still have my cynicism and a certain carefree “bounciness” that my recent failed attempt at writing fiction didn’t have. They still drip with dark humour, even when I attempt to tell a more “serious” story.

So, maybe my narrative voice isn’t lost – maybe it just transformed itself into something slightly different?

And, well, maybe it isn’t even entirely a “narrative voice” any more. I noticed that, back in 2009 and 2010, I was incredibly proud of finally finding my own unique narrative voice. These days, I’m incredibly proud of finding my own unique art style.

But, again, my art style has some of the “bounciness” that my old narrative voice used to have. No matter how “serious” or “gloomy” I try to make my art, it almost always ends up looking slightly cartoonish. Whenever I try to draw a ferocious monster, it always ends up looking more amusingly adorable than disturbing. Whenever I try to paint a beautiful landscape, it will almost always be at night or during a sunset because my art style is kind of gothy.

So, I guess that if you have an extended period of writer’s block or you end up moving away from writing and work in another medium, your narrative voice doesn’t go away.

It might change or hide itself slightly, but it will still emerge in whatever you create. Why? Because it’s part of you.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

How You Write Or Make Art Is Also Part Of Your Unique “Style”

Showing off. 25436

Showing off. 25436

Although I’ll be talking about the tired old subject of having a unique “art style” and/or “writing style” yet again, I’ll be looking at it from a very slightly different perspective today.

Instead of focusing on what makes our art and/or writing look unique, I thought that I’d focus on what makes our creative processes so unique. In other words, I’ll be looking at how we make art and how we write rather than what our art and/or writing looks like.

You see, we all have different things that we value when we create things. To use a gaming metaphor (and apologies if I get this wrong – I haven’t played that many RPGs), we each have different stats that we tend to focus on more than others. We try to increase our “level” in a few areas, whilst not really caring as much about the others.

For example, when it comes to making art, I tend to value reliability, simplicity of production and speed.

What this means is that I’ll try to stick to a schedule rigidly, regardless of how “inspired” I feel (even if this affects the quality of my work). It also means that I tend to make art that isn’t needlessly complicated and doesn’t consume more than 1-2 hours or my time per painting.

This also means that most of my art tends to be on the smaller side of things (eg: most of my current paintings are between 19x27cm – 18x19cm in size), because it’s quicker to fill this amount of paper than it is to fill a large canvas or anything like that.

My slightly cartoonish art style, my reliance on things like simple block colours and my preference for “faster” art mediums are all an extension of these things.

If I valued a different set of qualities – such as realism and technical quality, then I’d probably produce very different art. I’d spend weeks or months working on large photo-realistic oil paintings or pencil drawings. I’d paint more form life than from my own imagination etc….

You’d be surprised at how much what we value about the creative process can affect the kinds of things that we create.

The same is probably true, to a lesser extent, with writing. Since it’s been a while since I last wrote any fiction, my examples are probably going to have to come from my non-fiction writing since I have more recent experience of this.

When it comes to non-fiction writing, I tend to value quantity, reliability and speed. What this means is that I tend to be slightly long-winded and I often tend to use the slightly formal and old-fashioned essay writing style that was drummed into me during my education, for the simple reason that it’s almost second-nature to me by now.

It also means that I believe in sayings like “done is better than good” and I’m not usually the kind of person who will spend several days meticulously crafting a non-fiction piece that I’m going to post on the internet.

If I valued a different set of qualities, then this article would probably look very different to what it looks like now. In fact, it’d be almost unrecognisable.

So, yes, if you want to learn more about your own personal art or writing “style”, then it might be worth taking a look at the things that you value when you’re actually making art or writing. Seriously, you might surprise yourself.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂