Wednesday Workshop: The Nature of Language and Style

I have been reading older books lately and noticed how the language of fiction has changed over the years. A language, any language changes over time and how it is written and read also changes. I find some older books almost delightfully wordy and syrupy to the extent that I have to slow down to comprehend them. I find this quite an enjoyable experience at times, as I am use to the modern and breezy style of books written today. One could say as fiction is democratized and becomes wider in distribution it naturally lowers itself to a more accessible denominator of reading comprehension and skill. Some of the older books, I feel, require a much higher level of reading comprehension and skill at pulling out meaning than what is taught in schools today.

It is both a good thing and a bad thing. I like for reading and writing to become more accessible to the world. Not everyone has such an intricate grasp on language that they can appreciate that thickly - prose like style of older works. Sometimes I find the almost magazine - article like writing of modern fiction to be both more accessible and less enriching at the same time. It is both a good thing and a bad thing. At times I do not feel like dragging a fishing net through the words and pulling out meanings with the densely twisted prose of yore. I want something light, accessible, and breezy to read. Other times I feel like curling up with a thickly written book like a dense and rich cup of cappuccino with subtle tones and notes that I must consider in order to pull out of the mixture.

A lot of erotica does cater to the light and breezy style which is more accessible to readers. Some of it is written by fans of the dense and rich prose of older books, and these works I typically savor for the richness and texture. There is room for both in our world, and there is also room for enriching the light and breezy style with deeper meaning and more careful words.

Some of this is editing and giving your work multiple passes. At times I find even my work is enriched when I pull a sentence out by itself and consider the different ways I can say the same thing. Am I saying this in an overly - obvious fashion? Is it too obscure? Does it sound too plainly spoken? Are the words in the wrong order where the impact of the statement is said to early? Can this be rewritten anymore pleasing to the ear tone and style? The more I read and consider my words the better they get, and also the more tightly focused they become. The first way you say something should be seen as merely expressing the idea into words. The later times you revisit your words should be seen as refinement and making them pleasing to both the eye and the ear.

At times I find myself wanting to emulate the more richly - sounding styles, when it is appropriate. One can stumble through the works of thousands of authors and absorb little bits and pieces of everything, and this is called style. When one randomly picks and chooses the soundings of words just because at that moment it may seem appropriate you run into the risk of having your writing sound like a jumble of styles and different sounding words. You can insert a piece of richly - sounding prose in your work to describe a mood or setting, but this comes at the risk of being the only place in your book in which you do this. If you are consistent and do this in many places, it is a better thing. If it stands out as the only place, it risks seeming out of place with the rest of the work.

In the more modern and breezy style of writing this matters. We should aim for consistency in the things we do. We should be conscience of stringers that sound like they were pulled from Shakespeare or Proust, while the rest of our writing sounds like something would read in a magazine anthology. Part of this is developing your style, what part of this is being conscience of the tone and sound of your work. Even I have times where I will write something to be deliberately more in the style of Film Noir and the old time radio detective shows, and then I have times where I will write something more in tone with savage sword and sorcery. I have times where I would want something to sound like a fairy tale, and then others where I am conscience to select a tone that better communicates the work to the reader in the style of which I choose.

Sometimes one must use their own voice, while at others you will want to adopt the voice of the genre of which you write.

It is the same with language. At times you will write any more accessible tone, and you will temper your style against this tone. At other times you will want to adopt a sound and manner of writing that better emulates some of the works of a bygone era. Sometimes this sound will be an integral part of your style, but you will be aware of your sound in tone to a degree that you will be able to choose to express something with the words spoken in a particular style or a more modern one.

In addition to getting the basic rules of grammar right, you will be measuring your tone against a particular manner of expression. It is a difficult thing to do for some, while for others it is a more natural thing because we are used to reading and writing any particular tone of expression.

That said, there is no right way to write. There is no popular style except our own. Our individual style is a mix of what we love and our experiences in our educations. We all are pieces of what came before, who we are as people, who we are as writers, our language and how we express ourselves. Nothing exists in a vacuum. We all share what we are. One cannot own language, as it is something universally owned by the people of this world.

We can strive for sounds or tones of voice that have came before. We can emulate things which give readers a particular nostalgic feeling or comfortable experience. Our words can be like the words of others, but they will always be seen through glasses of our own experiences. We shall always bring color and texture to our words, even if the color on the tip of our brush is not one we normally use. We are unique, and we are artists. We can choose to express anything we desire through our words.

This is the journey of style and tone. You embark on this after he you have mastered the basics and you are moving on to finding the truth of your inner soul. This is often done through examining the souls and writing of others, and through their words you shall find yours.