It’s the first post of 2019 for me. A good time to look forward, to catch of a glimpse of new vistas, to sing of the body electric of new stories to be written and read and shared and reread.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the style of writing. Not just what we say, but how we say it. I’m focused on how we string words together, how we connect this sentence to that corresponding paragraph, and how we cause lines of text, black letters on white backdrops, to become images and full-fledged scenes inside our readers’ heads. We have our motifs, our formulas, our grammar, and our cadence. Some of us prefer to sound like we speak with a Received Pronounciation; others, like a Southern drawl on a muggy August evening; and still others, like voices raised against midday traffic on Fifth Avenue.
There’s all sorts to writing that I can’t put down a definitive list. So, instead, I’ll just focus on what I have in my writer’s toolbox.
- Colorful female protagonists
- References to Latinx culture and Catholicism
- Social justice perspectives
- Frequent LGBT romances
- Vivid descriptions of scenery as an “establishing shot”
- Multiple interior monologues
- Third person limited POV
- Use of dialogue to establish character and move the plot
- References to Shakespeare, classic works of art and fiction, and pop culture
- Low-stakes drama and comedy
- Description of sunlight and interior lighting to establish mood
Looking over my own list, I can see a few points worth noting. For example, I write a lot in the language of TV and films, where I use establishing shots and key lighting to cultivate my settings. My scenes tend to center on two or more people engaged in a conversation, be it a love scene, an argument, an investigation, or a nightmare. I use my scene lighting and my dialogue to build up the overall mood of every scene, to evoke something straight out of German Expressionism.
And, sure, I did include some content here. Mostly recurring motifs. I write about women, I write about Latinos, I write about Catholic spirituality, and I write with an eye toward social justice. All things near and dear to my heart. I make allusions to Shakespeare and pop culture. I am sarcastic as hell, and so are my characters. I’ve written things that try to be big and adventurous, but really, I’d rather do something small and lighthearted.
Overall, I’d say that I write about people discussing things and growing because of their discussions. I write about feelings more than actions. Take a look at any of my stories, from my Digital Eyes, Family Ties anthology to some of my newer works, and you’ll see there’s a lot of depth to what a character might be feeling over how much action they’re accomplishing. You won’t find any James Patterson thrillers or Stephen King horrors in my work. I’ve nothing against those kind of authors, but I’m more the guy whose work you pick up when you’re sleepy and you just want to curl up with something not-so-heavy on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Style matters. Sure, you can give me a book that has more poetry than plot, and I can get bored real quick, but I also think that we can’t just write for the sake of driving a story from start to finish. We need to consider our native languages, our personal tones and phrases that keep popping up in everything we create.
Readers, if you’re also a writer, what’s your style like? Have you found yours yet, or are you trying something new this time around? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.