I'm a music nut. I might not always know the performer's name, I may not know all the words to any particular song, but I do love a good melody. Readers do the same with the written word. They may pick up a book that visually intrigues them, but after a few sentences, they place it back on the shelf. Why? Usually, the reason is the words on the page didn't intrigue them as they hoped. I'm talking about style.
The way we, as writers, put our words together is important. I've attended many workshops on writing style and it always comes down to a few basic rules. Words need to create an image or impression to the reader in order to capture their attention. Then words must continue to enrapture the reader to keep them reading.
How does a writer accomplish such a monumental task? Work, work, work! Actually, the repeated word 'work' has a hint of style in it. It lends itself to not giving up, to keep on with the task at hand, to continue on, no matter what! Yet, all I wrote was, 'work, work, work.'
Also the word, 'work,' has a nice crunch to it. It gives the reader that grrrr feeling. It's a basic, elemental, primal urge to hear more strong sounding words. It's an action word over a passive one. Action creates movement in a reader's mind.
If you have a passage that lags, undoubtedly your style is lagging too. You may read it out loud and think it sounds okay, you're saying what you meant to say. But does it have flavor? Does it conjure up a particular image, or pull at some emotion? I tell my chess players, "find a good move, then discover a better one before you actually make a move." What you have written may not be wrong, it simply lacks luster and imagination.
Another simple way to work on style is to read your passage aloud. I know, you've been told this over and over. But listen as a musician listens to his orchestra. Is one word a little too sharp for the content of the sentence? Or fall flat? Is something missing? An unsung note perhaps that needs filling in. Is something out of tune with the rest of the paragraph or story? Is it too abrupt? Or not enough contrast? Is the balance in perfect pitch with the surrounding sentences?
I sing alto with our church choir and there are times when my friend and I will know automatically one of us was not on the correct note. No matter who was right on or off, we both knew it didn't sound the way it was supposed to sound. The result ended in discord. The wrong note had been sung just as times the wrong word is typed out and left to dangle like a broken reed.
If your story ebbs and flows like a symphony, then you have found your style. If it bleeps and spits and sounds more like a monkey banging away on his symbols, you need to work on your style. The sound of words give strength to your writing, if you put them in the correct order!
Let your words sing!
Til next time ~