7 Choices That Affect A Writer's Style


What Is Your Literary Style?

Style, in its broadest sense, is a specific way in which we create, perform, or do something. Style in literature is the way an author uses words to tell a story. It is a writer’s way of showing his or her personality on paper. 
Just as a person putting together items of clothing and jewellery, and applying make-up creates a personal style, the way a person puts together word choice, sentence structure, and figurative language describes his or her literary style. 

When combined, the choices they make work together to establish mood, images, and meaning. This has an effect on their audience. 

Seven choices that affect a writer's style
  1. Word choice
  2. Punctuation
  3. Sentence structure
  4. Sensory details 
  5. Figurative language such as metaphors and similes 
  6. Sound devices such as alliteration and onomatopoeia
I believe every author has a unique style that can’t be taught. However, he or she can refine it by reading other authors, trying different literary techniques, and through plenty of writing practice and experience. 

Your style could be described as pithy, articulate, inarticulate, conversational, literary, rambling or poetic. Follow this link for 60 Words That Describe Writing Styles.

Style can mean different things

Remember that an editor’s definition of style refers to the mechanics of writing, including grammar, punctuation, and formatting. This differs even more depending on whether the editor is in a creative or a business field. 

Style Guides

Companies and institutions use style guides for their employees and writers to follow. The rules change depending on the guide. 

Online UK Style Guides:
Online US Style Guides:
If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.

 by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Pinterest,  Google+,  LinkedIn,  and on Twitter:  @amandaonwriting

© Amanda Patterson

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Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 3: Getting To Grips With Genre And Tone


Welcome to week 3 of Anthony Ehlers's series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week's post here.

Goal setting
  1. Decide on genre
  2. Rewrite your working synopsis
  3. Exploring the mood of your novel
Breaking it down

Through the lens of genre
You may have wondered when I was going to bring up the topic of genre. I deliberately left it until now, because I think if you focus too much on genre right at the beginning of the novel writing process, it can stifle the natural flow of your story.

Yes, it’s great to have an idea of what type of story you’re telling from the start — but by working on your synopsis and character thumbnails, you’ll probably come up with some great unfettered ideas. Some may even suggest a different genre to what you had in mind.

At the start of my story, I knew I was going to write a suspense novel but I need to sharpen my focus on genre. For me, the psychological element of a suspense is always more exciting that the physical element of it.  I love Eyes Wide Shut, the movie based on the story ‘Traumnovelle’, which explores sexual jealousy and fantasies. So I knew I wanted my story to have an erotic edge. However, I wanted it to play out like a thriller — with an element of pursuit.

What genre most suits your story? How can you align your plot more closely to that genre? My story, at the end of the day, is an erotic thriller — so I felt it was lacking in menace. It needed more tension and suspense. That was something I needed to focus on.  This meant I had to relook at both the storyline and the characters, especially the antagonist.
Bringing the antagonist from the edge … closer to your main character
With this is mind, this week the task is to have another look at your working synopsis. Is there enough in it to satisfy the requirements of your genre?

At this point, try to find three or four key scenes that if someone read just these scenes, they would immediately guess the genre. In the film Fatal Attraction, for example, Alex, the stalker, escalates her obsessive pursuit of a married man after he tries to rebuff her following their one-night stand. She fakes a pregnancy to get his attention, shows up under the guise as a potential buyer of his apartment to meet his wife, and even ‘kidnaps’ his daughter. (Oh, let’s not forget the bunny boiling!).

These three scenes, on their own, show how she’s encroached on his life and is posing a threat to his wife and child — the two people he doesn’t want to lose. There’s a lot at stake for this main character.

Of course, if we use this movie as an example, Alex as an antagonist is superb. Her successful career and casual attitude to sex hide her obsessive and unbalanced nature. She is not a stereotypical ‘vamp’: at times, we even feel empathy for her.

This week look at your antagonist and try to flesh out elements of this character so that they will function better in your chosen genre. Then look at the characters around them — your lead, your love interest, and so forth — and see how you could make them more vulnerable to the antics of the antagonist, and also what strengths (hidden or otherwise) you could give them to stand up to the antagonist.
The ‘feel’ of your story
Every story has its own mood. How an author creates a scene, builds a character, the pace he or she uses to create tension or relief in the reader, their descriptions of setting — all these influence the tone of a novel.

I’ll give you an example from the film world. The film Basic Instinct, a thriller, has a cool Hitchcockian style, with an icy soundtrack and a detached voyeuristic feel. However, if you read Joe Eszterhaz’s original script, he intended it to have a much rougher touch — with a Rolling Stones rock ’n’ roll edge. Not a single word of the dialogue or the plot changed from script to screen, but the director gave the film his own unique treatment.

While plot is about story, genre is more about tone, I believe. This week you may want to write out a ‘treatment’ of your novel, much the way filmmakers do with a movie. What kind of tone do you want to create? What’s the mood or feeling you want to stir in the reader?

Stephenie Meyer, I recall, used to create playlists of music while writing her Twilight series (I think Muse featured heavily). A good idea is to think of what invisible soundtrack you want the reader to ‘hear’ while reading the book — this will influence the tone of your novel.
Timelock — 2-3 hours
  • 1 hour to rewrite your synopsis
  • 1 hour to rewrite your character thumbnails
  • 1 hour to write out the treatment (Optional)
5 Quick Hacks
  1. Read a novel or two and try to isolate the three plot points, or three scenes, that are key to its genre.
  2. Make a list of your favourite baddies or antagonists — next to each name write down one or two characters traits that you remember about them.
  3. Imagine your main character and antagonist in two different locations at exactly the same time — describe how your antagonist would travel to get to your main character and why.
  4. Watch one of your favourite movies — pay attention to the mood or tone of the story. How was this achieved?
  5. Create a playlist of music that you think would suit your story. Listen to it while you write.
Pin it, quote it, believe it:

‘Genre is a powerful but dangerous lens. It both clarifies and limits. The writer must be careful not to see life in the stereotyped form — but to look at life with all the possibilities of genre in mind.’ — Donald Murray

Watch out for the fourth instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year next week.

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. Please email news@writerswrite.co.za for more details.

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you enjoyed this post, read:

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

How Do You Find Your Writing Voice?

Your voice is your writing personality. It is a unique, authentic and consistent writing style that belongs to you. 

When you write in this voice, there is no pretence and your readers will be as comfortable as you are. They will gladly enter the worlds you create on the page. They will not feel as if they are reading; they will feel as if they are experiencing the story.

Tip: Don’t confuse tone with voice. Voice can be explained as the author’s personality expressed in writing, while tone refers to the attitude of the writer in a piece of writing. 

Practice makes perfect

You already have your voice. The only way to find it or improve it, is by writing. This is not something you do quickly. You will have to write many words before you are comfortable enough for your voice to shine through naturally. If you want to write books, aim to write for 10 000 hours or write a million words. I do believe a good writing course will help you make the most of your voice. 

It is difficult to define this voice, but when you have found it, you will know. So will your readers.

Source

A prompt a day

A good way to find your voice is by establishing a writing routine that includes a daily writing prompt. Writing prompts are an excellent way to exercise the writing muscle. We post a daily writing prompt on our Facebook page. They are also available on our Creative Blog. If you're looking for writing prompts, read these posts:

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. Email news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

 by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn,  Pinterest,  and  Twitter.

© Amanda Patterson

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

155 Words To Describe An Author's Tone

What is tone? 

Tone refers to an author’s use of words and writing style to convey his or her attitude towards a topic. Tone is often defined as what the author feels about the subject. What the reader feels is known as the mood.

Tip: Don’t confuse tone with voice. [Read How Do You Find Your Writing Voice?] Voice can be explained as the author’s personality expressed in writing. Tone = Attitude. Voice = Personality.

Tone (attitude) and voice (personality) create a writing style. You may not be able to alter your personality but you can adjust your attitude. This gives you ways to create writing that affects your audience’s mood.

The mechanics

Tone is conveyed through diction (choice and use of words and phrases), viewpoint, syntax (grammar; how you put words and phrases together), and level of formality. It is the way you express yourself in speech or writing.

How do you find the correct tone?

You can usually find a tone by asking these three questions: 

  1. Why am I writing this?
  2. Who is my intended audience?
  3. What do I want the reader to learn, understand, or think about?

In formal writing, your tone should be clear, concise, confident, and courteous. The writing level should be sophisticated, but not pretentious.

In creative writing, your tone is more subjective, but you should always aim to communicate clearly. Genre sometimes determines the tone.

     Tone

     Meaning

Absurd

illogical; ridiculous; silly; implausible; foolish

Accusatory

suggesting someone has done something wrong, complaining

Acerbic

sharp; forthright; biting; hurtful; abrasive; severe

Admiring

approving; think highly of; respectful; praising

Aggressive

hostile; determined; forceful; argumentative

Aggrieved

indignant; annoyed; offended; disgruntled

Ambivalent

having mixed feelings; uncertain; in a dilemma; undecided

Amused

entertained; diverted; pleased

Angry

incensed or enraged; threatening or menacing

Animated

full of life or excitement; lively; spirited; impassioned; vibrant

Apathetic

showing little interest; lacking concern; indifferent; unemotional

Apologetic

full of regret; repentant; remorseful; acknowledging failure

Appreciative

grateful; thankful; showing pleasure; enthusiastic

Ardent

enthusiastic; passionate

Arrogant

pompous; disdainful; overbearing; condescending; vain; scoffing

Assertive

self-confident; strong-willed; authoritative; insistent

Awestruck

amazed, filled with wonder/awe; reverential

Belligerent

hostile; aggressive; combatant

Benevolent

sympathetic; tolerant; generous; caring; well meaning

Bitter

angry; acrimonious; antagonistic; spiteful; nasty

Callous

cruel disregard; unfeeling; uncaring; indifferent; ruthless

Candid

truthful, straightforward; honest; unreserved

Caustic

making biting, corrosive comments; critical

Cautionary

gives warning; raises awareness; reminding

Celebratory

praising; pay tribute to; glorify; honour

Chatty

informal; lively; conversational; familiar

Colloquial

familiar; everyday language; informal; colloquial; casual

Comic

humorous; witty; entertaining; diverting

Compassionate

sympathetic; empathetic; warm-hearted; tolerant; kind

Complex

having many varying characteristics; complicated

Compliant

agree or obey rules; acquiescent; flexible; submissive

Concerned 

worried; anxious; apprehensive

Conciliatory

intended to placate or pacify; appeasing

Condescending

stooping to the level of one's inferiors; patronising

Confused

unable to think clearly; bewildered; vague

Contemptuous

showing contempt; scornful; insolent; mocking

Critical

finding fault; disapproving; scathing; criticizing

Cruel

causing pain and suffering; unkind; spiteful; severe

Curious

wanting to find out more; inquisitive; questioning

Cynical

scornful of motives/virtues of others; mocking; sneering

Defensive

defending a position; shielding; guarding; watchful

Defiant

obstinate; argumentative; defiant; contentious

Demeaning

disrespectful; undignified

Depressing

sad, melancholic; discouraging; pessimistic

Derisive

snide; sarcastic; mocking; dismissive; scornful

Detached

aloof; objective; unfeeling; distant

Dignified

serious; respectful; formal; proper

Diplomatic

tactful; subtle; sensitive; thoughtful

Disapproving

displeased; critical; condemnatory

Disheartening

discouraging; demoralising; undermining; depressing

Disparaging

dismissive; critical; scornful

Direct

straightforward; honest

Disappointed

discouraged; unhappy because something has gone wrong

Dispassionate

impartial; indifferent; unsentimental; cold; unsympathetic

Distressing

heart-breaking; sad; troubling

Docile

compliant; submissive; deferential; accommodating

Earnest

showing deep sincerity or feeling; serious

Egotistical

self-absorbed; selfish; conceited; boastful

Empathetic

understanding; kind; sensitive

Encouraging

optimistic; supportive

Enthusiastic 

excited; energetic

Evasive

ambiguous; cryptic; unclear

Excited

emotionally aroused; stirred

Facetious

inappropriate; flippant

Farcical

ludicrous; absurd; mocking; humorous and highly improbable

Flippant

superficial; glib; shallow; thoughtless; frivolous

Forceful

powerful; energetic; confident; assertive

Formal

respectful; stilted; factual; following accepted styles/rules

Frank

honest; direct; plain; matter-of-fact

Frustrated

annoyed; discouraged

Gentle

kind; considerate; mild; soft

Ghoulish

delighting in the revolting or the loathsome

Grim

serious; gloomy; depressing; lacking humour; macabre

Gullible

naïve; innocent; ignorant

Hard

unfeeling; hard-hearted; unyielding

Humble

deferential; modest

Humorous

amusing; entertaining; playful

Hypercritical

unreasonably critical; hair splitting; nitpicking

Impartial

unbiased; neutral; objective

Impassioned

filled with emotion; ardent

Imploring

pleading; begging

Impressionable

trusting; child-like

Inane

silly; foolish; stupid; nonsensical

Incensed

enraged

Incredulous

disbelieving; unconvinced; questioning; suspicious

Indignant

annoyed; angry; dissatisfied

Informative

instructive; factual; educational

Inspirational

encouraging; reassuring

Intense

earnest; passionate; concentrated; deeply felt

Intimate

familiar; informal; confidential; confessional

Ironic

the opposite of what is meant

Irreverent

lacking respect for things that are generally taken seriously

Jaded

bored; having had too much of the same thing; lack enthusiasm

Joyful

positive; optimistic; cheerful; elated

Judgmental

critical; finding fault; disparaging

Laudatory

praising; recommending

Light-Hearted

carefree; relaxed; chatty; humorous

Loving

affectionate; showing intense, deep concern

Macabre

gruesome; horrifying; frightening

Malicious

desiring to harm others or to see others suffer; ill-willed; spiteful

Mean-Spirited

inconsiderate; unsympathetic

Mocking

scornful; ridiculing; making fun of someone

Mourning

grieving; lamenting; woeful

Naïve

innocent; unsophisticated; immature

Narcissistic

self-admiring;  selfish; boastful; self-pitying

Nasty

unpleasant; unkind; disagreeable; abusive

Negative

unhappy, pessimistic

Nostalgic

thinking about the past; wishing for something from the past

Objective

without prejudice; without discrimination; fair; based on fact

Obsequious

overly obedient and/or submissive; fawning; grovelling

Optimistic

hopeful; cheerful

Outraged

angered and resentful; furious; extremely angered

Outspoken

frank; candid; spoken without reserve

Pathetic

expressing pity, sympathy, tenderness

Patronising

condescending; scornful; pompous

Pensive

reflective; introspective; philosophical; contemplative

Persuasive

convincing; eloquent; influential; plausible

Pessimistic

seeing the negative side of things

Philosophical

theoretical; analytical; rational; logical

Playful

full of fun and good spirits; humorous; jesting

Pragmatic

realistic; sensible

Pretentious

affected; artificial; grandiose; rhetorical; flashy

Regretful

apologetic; remorseful

Resentful

aggrieved; offended; displeased; bitter

Resigned

accepting; unhappy

Restrained

controlled; quiet; unemotional

Reverent

showing deep respect and esteem

Righteous

morally right and just; guiltless; pious; god-fearing

Satirical

making fun to show a weakness; ridiculing; derisive

Sarcastic

scornful; mocking; ridiculing

Scathing

critical; stinging; unsparing; harsh

Scornful

expressing contempt or derision; scathing; dismissive

Sensationalistic

provocative; inaccurate; distasteful

Sentimental

thinking about feelings, especially when remembering the past

Sincere

honest; truthful; earnest

Sceptical

disbelieving; unconvinced; doubting

Solemn

not funny; in earnest; serious

Subjective

prejudiced; biased

Submissive

compliant; passive; accommodating; obedient

Sulking

bad-tempered; grumpy; resentful; sullen

Sympathetic

compassionate; understanding of how someone feels

Thoughtful

reflective; serious; absorbed

Tolerant

open-minded; charitable; patient; sympathetic; lenient

Tragic

disastrous; calamitous

Unassuming

modest; self-effacing; restrained

Uneasy

worried; uncomfortable; edgy; nervous

Urgent

insistent; saying something must be done soon

Vindictive

vengeful; spiteful; bitter; unforgiving

Virtuous

lawful; righteous; moral; upstanding

Whimsical

quaint; playful; mischievous; offbeat

Witty

clever; quick-witted; entertaining

Wonder

awe-struck; admiring; fascinating

World-Weary

bored; cynical; tired

Worried

anxious; stressed; fearful

Wretched

miserable; despairing; sorrowful; distressed


Helpful Tip: Finding the correct tone is a matter of practice. Try to write for different audiences. Even if you only want to write novels, it is an apprenticeship of sorts. Write press releases. Write opinion pieces. Write interviews. Write copy. Write a business plan. 

The more you write, the better you will become at infusing your work with the nuances needed to create the perfect book.

 by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on PinterestFacebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter. 

© Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy 

  1. 7 Choices That Affect A Writer's Style
  2. Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language
  3. 60 words to describe writing or speaking styles

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate