Friday, 25 July 2014

What style do you do?

Are you a writer?

Even if you haven't published a book, you might still be a writer. For example, do you keep a diary? Do you dabble in the odd bit of poetry? When you travel, do you write a journal to record your experiences?

These, and many others, are forms of writing, and you're probably not aware that you have a writing style.

Your writing style is kind of like your signature - you know how some people can look at a painting and identify the artist from the brushstrokes? Others can identify a wine by its taste. Some writers can be identified by their words.

One of my favourite authors of all time is Pamela Belle. My first encounter with one of Ms Belle's books was in a bookshop during a lunch break from work. I picked up a book called The Moon in the Water. It had a very nondescript cover, but for some reason, and I daily give thanks to whomever was controlling my hand that day, I bought it and was hooked for life.

The sequel, The Chains of Fate changed my life. I loved these books so much that I decided one day I was going to be a writer. Pamela Belle's writing style is a tapestry of beautiful, descriptive language that drew me into her story.

Ms Belle's books were set in the 1600s during the British Civil War, not my usual reading genre, but after I began scouring the shelves for other books by Pamela Belle I made a discovery that made me sit back in wonder.

Ms Belle had written a scify/fantasy series - the Silver City trilogy. Now, let's not confuse genre with style. If you think about the style of language you might use for an historical novel compared with the language you might use in a novel set in the future, you can imagine the types of words you might use would be very different - particularly when it comes to dialogue, the way people talk.

That's why I was so surprised to discover that Pamela Belle had gone from writing novels set in the 1600s to writing fantasy novels. The language and style are entirely different. Would she transition successfully?

I had to think about this, after all, I'm not a fan of scify/fantasy. Oh I've tried, over the years - I've read some Anne McCaffrey, Tolkein some Terry Pratchett and a few others, but have never been that taken.

So, when I discovered that my favourite writer, the one with the enchanting and most wondrous turns of phrase, had crossed over to the dark side and was writing in an entirely different style, I was ... well ... a little bit concerned.

In any case, I bought the first book in the Silver City series and guess what!? I hungered for the second and third books. Pamela Belle had, in my mind, crossed genres. She had changed her writing style and I loved it! For the first time in my life, I had a fantasy novel I couldn't put down.

Imagine then, my excitement when I discovered that Pamela Belle also wrote under the name of Alice Marlow and had a couple of contemporary books in that name. These books are set in current times and deal with modern issues. The two I've read and loved are Mermaid's Ground and No Love Lost.

Another style change! Another raving success!

So I started thinking about my own writing. My books Torn and Inviolate are historical fiction set in the Regency period. I have written a number of contemporary stories as well, but I think my particular genre is historical because I enjoy the style of language and sentence structure that genre allows.

Not sure how I'd go changing genres, I'm not really sure my style would lend itself to fantasy, scify or other styles.

How many writers do you know of that have successfully changed styles? Many writers experiment with new styles but how many are truly successful? Van Gogh experimented with painting style - as many artists do with varying degrees of success.

For writers, it's the same. Some of us manage to change our language and syntax, some of us don't.

In a previous post I talked about the style you might read. As readers we're fortunate to have a wealth of styles at our disposal and we can read and enjoy as many as we want.

As writers, we automatically write in a style that works for us so we naturally seem to fall into a genre we're attracted to. To consciously change styles by moving into a different genre takes some thought.

I read a bodice-ripper romance a while ago, just for something different. I don't mind these books from time to time but this one had a writing style that was definitely not to my taste. I won't go into the reasons why but suffice to say that this particular writer liked. To. Write. Like. This.

Call me old fashioned but I like my sentences to contain a verb - that's just my style!

Until next week ...

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