I’ve written since I was eleven years old. I decided at nine that all those stories constantly running around my head meant I was supposed to be a writer – I think that was the very words that came to me; I can almost hear my nine year old voice echoing in my head, broad east coast accent not yet refined by my mum’s admonitions….It’s W..aw..ter, not W..ah..ter..
And sometimes curiously, cringing, I run back across what was written, books and poetry.. my sister, the blister…the heartache, the first purpling pimples…Despair is stained like blood on snow in my melancholy… I never dwelt, I never edited, to many a teacher’s frustration ( I assume..I wasn’t taking notes).
Now I read me, every day, all day sometimes. I read me til I can quote almost every word, possibly backwards. I’ve started to notice habits, familiar rhythms in my writing style. On my blog I definitely favour the cliché with a twist and in anything I adore contrast, in the structure, the content, the language.
I have favourite words.. I like plain words, the wool and cotton of the dictionary over the flashy satins. Like, suppose, seem.. love seem.. grey, much, still.
I like phonetics, in particular words that have texture on your tongue.. squishy, scooch, foosty, frittering, languorous, twang, shoogle… especially if it confuses Word.
Despite the current trend for short sharp sentences – I have even seen this offered as professional advice – I love a wandering, where the f*** did I park my point, multi- clause monstrosity. There are times, if unchecked, I could take a half dozen tangents within the space of two full stops and a comment on the weather.
I also like what I call the gathering storm – a series of similarly structured sentences building up to a short sharp shock. I’m somewhat guilty of the ‘text mine’ too… surprises disguised as innocuous parts of the exposition. Though I’ve never achieved the brilliance of.. It was a bright, cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.
I say guilty and I have seen conversations which suggest favouring certain words or techniques is something that should be stamped out, as if it were indicative of poor writing to do anything more than once. Anything can be overdone, that’s stating the too obvious to be worth repeating surely? But equally surely the rest is simply style. We need more personality within writing not less. It feels like the literary equivalent to the Hollywood perfect white smile….
Lee Child is famed for his fragments. JK has her adverbs and autistic level attention to detail. King has his every working man, still slightly stuck-in-the-70’s-steel-mill voice. Keyes has that mad Irish, woman-with-toothpaste-in-my-hair-at-the-job-interview, way about her prose. I haven’t broken their style down into techniques and tricks, I prefer to savour it as more than the sum of its parts, and I think my greatest ambition as a writer is that all my quirks when put together add up to the same effect – an individual and recognisable voice.
They all tell great stories, they all have their own voice and they all sit above the masses because of this. Aye, it also means some will hate them, being distinctive is the marmite test, but that’s what will also make some fall in love, instead of simply reading and forgetting.
What is your style?