Is it important to write with style? How do you find the style that sits well with you. This applies not just to writing but also to speaking. We have all come across speakers who seem to be scripted. Reading from a cue that someone else has written and that they don’t particularly believe in. Public life is full of politicians who seem to be from this school of thought and it leaves everyone cold. They are just not believed. Here is how to avoid this if you want your writing to be taken seriously. I write crime thrillers and I would hate to think the scenes I describe are seen as false and fabricated. (They are but I want to maintain the illusion of reality. I want my readers to believe I am writing about real life happenings!)
- Find a subject you care about. Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not playing with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your writing style. It doesn’t have to be a novel, by the way – but you would probably enjoy the end result, provided you genuinely cared. A petition to the council about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to someone you love will do. So long as it is done with passion and you care. Be genuine.
- Keep it simple. Use language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. ‘To be or not to be?’ asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long! Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a diamond necklace, but my favourite sentence in his short story ‘Eveline‘ is: ‘She was tired.’ At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.
- Sound like yourself. English was Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt coloured by his first language, which was Polish. And what about the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so lyrical and musical. No matter what your first language, you should look after it. If it happens to not be standard English, and if it shows itself when your write standard English, the result is usually engaging, like a pretty girl with one eye that is green and one that is blue. I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to like it most, too, when I sound most like a London boy, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have?
- Say what you mean. Teachers usually wish their students to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a jigsaw. They hoped that you become understandable- and therefore understood. After all, that is the purpose of communication, of which writing is a part.
Does a writer do with words what Picasso did with paint or what any number of techno trance artists do with music? If a writer breaks all the rules of punctuation, have words mean whatever the author wants them to mean, and strung them together randomly, the work will simply not be understood. Readers want pages to look very much like pages they have seen before. Why? This is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from a writer in making sense of it all!
I hope this helps.