Thoughts on Writing Style

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I recently finished reading Faith Hunter’s Blood Cross, book number two in the Jane Yellowrock series, and while I write this post I am in the middle of Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance, book three in his Southern Reach Trilogy. On the surface these books couldn’t be further apart, I’m pretty much the only thing tying them together. Yet both authors have a very specific writing style that I admire, so of course I got to thinking about style in general having read them so close together.

Halfway through Blood Cross, I remember thinking about Hunter’s use of language and how she describes setting and characters in her books. I like both aspects a lot, and think there’s much to learn from them. Then I recalled a comment Hunter made at WWC.

I didn’t write it down so I am 100% paraphrasing here, but I believe she said, “I write a certain way, with a certain sophistication, and if I alienate some readers because of it, too bad.”

I can’t express how much it meant for me to hear this! I write in a slightly elevated style myself, I’m not being snooty when I say that either; I have a strong vocabulary and I use it. Even in everyday life. It’s how I communicate.

I’m never going to write super lyrical prose or esoteric ramblings (at least not in the near future), but I’m tired of having to change my writing style in order to fit some perception of the genre I am writing in. I think I constructed the perception, to be honest. Or I listened to too many people tell me to “drop the flowery writing”* because they weren’t on the same level as me. I like big words, I like language, I’m going to use what I enjoy. What’s more, I want readers who are on the same wave length as me.

I’ve read quite a bit in the genre I’m currently calling my own. Not only do my favourite stories differ dramatically despite linked lore, but every single writer ranges in style and language use –Armstrong, Hunter, Briggs, Harrison, Hamilton, Butcher, and Andrews sound nothing alike, and I don’t want to sound like any of them. I have a strong writing voice and a style that, while I’m still fine-tuning, I’m very happy with.

Coming back to VanderMeer’s trilogy, I’m just excited by the fact that people are so interested in literary horror! That fills me with hope and excitement. Besides, if you want a serious lesson in artistic style, read about the Southern Reach. Expect to lose some sleep though.

 

*”Drop the flowery writing” is one of my favourite pieces of advice from a high school social studies teacher who didn’t understand the big words in my essays. Please note the sarcasm. I have yet to drop the flowery writing, for the record, and I’m sure he’s still confused. Yeah, I hold a minor grudge.

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  1. That teacher had no clue what he was talking about. To me, flowery prose = purple prose: overblown, bombastic, superfluous.

    I still struggle with using the full range of my vocabulary, whether in speaking or writing (less now than in the past, but still). My sister never modulated hers – specifically, in this case, with speech – and dealt with a lot of negative reactions like bullying because of it.

    Also, our dad didn’t read for pleasure (he was at least mildly dyslexic, as well as farsighted) so did not have our vocabulary, and he lashed out when frustrated. And it was very frustrating when he couldn’t understand half the words his ten-year-old daughter used.

    I no longer apologize for my vocabulary, which has been hugely freeing and only possible because of surrounding myself with attitudes like Hunter’s. Sounds like she – and WWC – was incredibly awesome this year!

    1. Nope, he never really did. And thankfully I never listened to him!

      I can’t say I had the same issue as your sister because I barely talked at school, unless with my friends, so I wasn’t bullied over my vocabulary. But I did have the exact same issue with my dad (who is not a reader whatsoever, likely because it’s difficult for him). Thankfully he’s grown out of the lashing out and will now ask me what I mean.

      Good for you! No one should have to apologize for the way they communicate. It was so relieving to finally hear someone successful in urban fantasy say what Hunter said :).

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