I started really getting into girls in middle school. Like most boys my age, I was clueless. Had no idea what they wanted or what they were looking for.
This improved a bit in high school –– after countless mishaps making for great stories between my friends –– where I came to a better understanding of what it takes to attract a female. The best lesson I learned during that trial and error period is the importance of a unique personal style.
This isn’t a fashion blog and I’m definitely not a fashion blogger, but I think my lesson in personal style transgresses quite well into the literary world.
Style is just as important in writing as it is in getting that special lady –– or guy –– friend. If you think about it, what are you really trying to do with that manuscript you’ve slaved over for x amount of months or years? Sell it right? And how do you go about doing that? Make it attractive. Give it a style that’ll stand out from the rest. Developing a unique style of prose is a key ingredient to becoming a good writer. It makes you recognizable to readers, and helps you develop a following.
Every great writer has his or her own personal style they hone in on. Junot Diaz, a writer with a huge buzz right now, has been critically acclaimed for his prose in Drown and The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. In both novels, Diaz uses curt sentences with Dominican slang and tons of cultural references peppered in to achieve a distinct style of prose unheard of in the literary world. Such a unique voice undoubtedly aided Diaz in his critical success, catapulting him to one greatest writers of the 21st century.
On the flip side, Jonathan Franzen –- another acclaimed contemporary author –– owns a distinct style strikingly different from Diaz’. Franzen, author of The Corrections and Strong Motion, takes a very methodical approach to writing. He relies on longwinded sentences digging deep into the mental processes of his characters, while blending in obscure words that require a dictionary be handy.
So how should you go about developing your own style of writing? The same way I went about trying to figure out girls, –– practice and experimentation.
Throw some stuff against the wall, see what sticks. Try writing short sentences using as few words as possible. Try long-winded ones with semicolons and dashes galore, see how long you can extend a train of thought. Air out different tones. Maybe a conversational one, as if you were telling your buddies a funny story. Or maybe a more serious one –– a nighttime campfire narrative. Have some fun with it.
It will take you a while to finally craft a style of prose you can truly call your own but the process will be worth it.