ONE of the first things we notice about writers is their style – the way they arrange words on paper or the screen, the way they choose specific words over a myriad of others.
In the slim volume, Elements of Style, Strunk and White point out that style reveals not only the spirit of the writer but very often his or her identity too. Style contributes to the writer’s ‘voice’ – his attitude towards his characters, the world and its ideology.
To illustrate, here are two passages by two great writers on the subject of languor. The first is quintessential Faulkner:
“He did not still feel weak, he was merely luxuriating in the supremely gutful lassitude of convalescence in which time, hurry, doing, did not exist, the accumulating seconds and minutes and hours to which in its well state the body is slave both waking and sleeping, now reversed and time now the lip-server and mendicant to the body’s pleasure instead of the body thrall to time’s headlong course.”
“Style is the fingerprint of the creator. We recognise the writer by its palpable presence.”
“Manuel drank his brandy. He felt sleepy himself. It was too hot to go into the town. Besides there was nothing to do. He wanted to see Zurich. He would go to sleep while he waited.”
The difference in style is striking, yet both passages are equally effective. The first is loquacious, almost verbose. It underpins the subject matter through its slowness, its inactivity.
The second is brief, laconic, yet its very brevity communicates Manuel’s languor through the truncated, sluggish drift of his thoughts.
Two very contrasting styles! Two powerful pieces of writing.
But how do the new writers set about developing their own style?
Discovering what sort of writing appeals to you is a first step. Giving yourself time to find and develop your individual voice through trail and error is the second. The journey is long and hard, as the saying goes, but the rewards are worthwhile – because at the end of it you you will create work that is memorable and unique.
Find your writing style by identifying and immersing yourself in stories you admire, then work to develop your own voice through trail and error. And never, ever give up.