Tag Archives: Style

Writing with Style

Writing with styleONE 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.”

Now Hemingway:

“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.

Synopsis

Find you own writing style by identifying and immersing yourself in works you admire. Then put your head down and write.

Writing is Rewriting V & VI

Shiny shoes

Style & Polish:

In these final two revisions of your screenplay, or novel, we look at style and polish.

Some Elements of Style:

Pacing

A consistently even pace, whether fast or slow, makes for monotony. Go over your entire story and ensure that there is sufficient variation in pace. A fast scene or sequence is usually followed by a slower or quieter scene to allow readers or audiences to take it all in. Additionally, there should be the same kind of variation within some, if not all, the scenes themselves, for much the same reasons.

Tonal Consistency

Do your characters belong in the same screenplay or novel, or do some seem to spring from completely different styles or genres—romantic comedy, science-fiction, historical drama? Although contrasting characters are a good thing, they should not appear to have walked in from the pages of different stories. This tonal consistency goes for the look and feel of settings and costumes, as well as dialogue and overall imagery. Even a cross-genre film such as Cowboys and Aliens attempts stylistic consistency across these disparate genres.

Transitions

Do your scenes end and lead into each other? If not, use the device of comparison to glue them together more effectively—similar or contrasting dialogue, movement, lighting, and the like.

Emotion

What is the specific emotion you are aiming for in each scene? Have you achieved it? Remember—believable characters with believable desires in believable situations and relationships make for believable emotions. Look for the pitch of the emotion, then tighten it.

The Final Polish

You are now ready to go through your entire script, line by line. Is this or that word, gesture, or description the best you can come up with? Have all grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors been eliminated? If so, your story is ready to present to the world. Good luck!

Summary

Your fifth and sixth drafts concern the elements of style and polish, after which, your story should be ready to be released into the world to fend for itself.

Invitation

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