What is Writing Style?
In fiction, writing style refers to the way words are arranged to compose the narrative that makes up a story. You may have noticed your style emerging in how you structure sentences, use description, or evoke tone.
Writing styles are unique to the author and provide a window into their creativity and thought process. Styles can be distinguishable from one another, but that does not mean that a certain type is better.
When searching for a writing style, it must be prefaced that the experience is naturally occurring and different for everyone. Though I will provide examples of certain styles and offer tips on developing a style, finding one is dependent on the writer.
Writing Style Exercise
Let’s start with a simple exercise to gain a better understanding of writing styles. This activity will require a notepad and writing utensil or access to an online document of your choice (i.e., Microsoft Word, Pages, Google Docs).
Grab a few books in your possession, preferably 3-4 of varying genres and authors.
Now that you have your books examine some paragraphs of your choosing. Write down some sentences that jump out at you, preferably 2-3 from each book. As you’re choosing sentences, note the varying tones each author conveys due to their respective genres.
Review your robust collection of sentences and consider the following questions:
Were sentences ornate and grandiose, or were they technical and direct?
Were there metaphors or none at all?
How did the author demonstrate emotion?
If dialogue was present, how was it arranged?
How are characters described?
How did the language between genres differ?
Note: Feel free to practice this exercise with your writing.
You may have noticed a difference between the way your chosen authors considered and wrote about the latter aspects. That is style.
If you found a certain author’s writing style distinct from the others, it is because that writer has uniquely expressed themselves in a way that calls to you. Keep that author in mind as you continue writing. They may serve as a valuable reference to lean on when developing your style.
Make special consideration regarding the distinct language used for genres like horror, romance, or suspense. These genres demand a particular style to create the emotions expected of these forms.
Examples of Writing Style
Writing styles can be arranged in the following categories:
Minimal, Standard, Conspicuous, and Ornate
Observe the graphics below to get an overview of each style’s expectations and an accompanying example.
Which writing style does yours fall under, or does it include aspects of multiple kinds?
Ways to Develop Writing Style
Now that you grasp what writing style is and examples of the varying kinds let’s consider a few ways to develop a style:
1. Read A LOT
This is arguably the most important step to developing your style. By reading, we deepen our knowledge and understanding of the narrative mechanics that make a great story. Constant literary immersion expands our vocabulary, influencing the words we choose and the way we write. When combined with our own experiences, we develop a style uniquely our own.
Since I can’t commit myself to a novel, short story collections, like The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, has been my preferred reading material. Anthologies offer a variety of writing styles that may resonate with you.
2. Write What Comes Naturally
Keep in mind that simply because a particular style is gaining commercial traction doesn’t mean it’s the only valid form.
If you like writing concrete descriptions, stick to it. If you hate extended metaphors, don’t force yourself. Writing is a creative expression of oneself. Compromising your creativity for the sake of “what’s in” will hamper the process.
As author Jeff Vandermeer says,
“Don’t be mad that you’re a flaming funeral barge rather than a schooner skimming the waves: Own your barge-hood and make of your style all that it can be.”
3. Write, Write, Write
Consider this as your mantra towards developing your style. Find the time to write when you can. Use it as an opportunity to experiment with word choice, syntax, tone, and the other myriad of aspects associated with the art of writing.
You’ll discover the stylistic patterns you make, opting to keep or omit these aspects as you deepen your style.
Over the years, my writing style has gradually changed. A personal fondness for the sci-fi genre and Annie Proulx’s work has led to a style consisting of concrete descriptions, poetic language, and long sentences.
Many gloss over style as an insignificant aspect compared to other literary elements like characterization, point of view, setting, or description. In actuality, style is the driving force that compels the reader to invest themselves in your work.
About the Author:
Aaron Talledo is currently pursuing his BA in English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He finds inspiration from literature, music, and film and expresses creativity through writing. In his free time, Aaron enjoys fitness, meditation, and video games.