ONE of the first things we notice about a writer is her style – the way she arranges the flow of words on paper, indeed, the way she chooses specific words over a myriad of others.
In Elements of Style, Strunk and White point out that style reveals not only the spirit of the writer, but very often, her identity too. Style contributes to her ‘voice’ – her attitude towards her characters, the world and its ideology.
A matter of Style
By way of example 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.”
“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 effective. The first is loquacious, almost verbose. It underpins the subject matter by evoking slowness, inactivity. The second is brief, laconic, yet its very brevity communicates Manuel’s languor through the truncated, sluggish drift of his thoughts.
How, then, does the new writer develop her own style?
Discovering what sort of writing appeals to you the most might be a first step. Giving yourself time to find and develop your individual voice through trail and error is another. The journey is long and hard, as the saying goes, but the rewards are worthwhile – work that is memorable and unique.
Find you own writing style by identifying and immersing yourself in works you admire. Then put your head down and write.