View Full Version : why do you write the way you write?

William Haskins
04-14-2005, 09:35 AM
let's talk style.

how has yours evolved and what, or who, has influenced it?

how is your style connected to your personality, your philosophy or your worldview?

what about your style makes your writing?

04-14-2005, 09:52 AM
there's no excuse for it.


04-14-2005, 10:06 AM
I write alot like I speak so my writing requires a lot of grammar editing and then alot of my southerness has to be removed.

My style is the style I like to read. Descriptive and brings the reader into the story.

I've read books where I had no idea what the characters looked like, I couldn't imagined them in my mind. I often wondered where a character was at a particular moment, and rarely knew what they were wearing.

So my writing is detailed.

04-14-2005, 03:22 PM
Well one writes the way he does because there is no other way for him to write. This word 'style' ... everybody is 'developing' his or her 'style' but once one has a style he is locked up in that style. That's a death sentence because it limits the person's ability and venue to communicate to people who don't like his style. One should try and destroy style write from the beginning. For that, you must not publish or even being read by anybody.

I think to solve the problem one should decide never to write at all! Ugh? What stupid Orobos it is that I jabbed here ... circle, snake eating own tail. Say William, why do you ask such impossible quenstions.

04-14-2005, 03:53 PM
In other words, I try to keep the fine details down to a minimum, so the reader can sort of 'imagine the set,' if you will, based on what basic details I have already given.

Also, I write as I'd like to be able to talk. (I say 'like to be able to' because I stutter and stammer when I'm actually speaking.) I enjoy writing something as though I myself am speaking the story. In fact, I really do talk to myself out loud when I'm writing, because it's a good way for me to see whether something works or not before I actually put it to paper. It's also a good way to figure out what words I'm going to use next, as I have a nasty tendency to forget words in the middle of sentences while I'm speaking them.

My style basically works on the premise of being somewhat of a showman. I was raised mostly on radio and television in my early childhood, and movies in my later childhood (Thanks to invention of the VHS Video Cassette Recorder) and therefore I generally think in terms of the motion picture or other form of show. I think like a movie director more than I do like a normal writer. The showman in me is very much a driving force in my writing. This can be good to a point but at the same time I have a bad habit of not describing enough of what I see in my mind's eye. The 'Radio Show' mentality only works well when enough of a basic description is given of the set.

Julian Black
04-14-2005, 05:49 PM
My style used to be heavily descriptive. What I was trying to do then was immerse the reader in the world I'd created; I had vivid mental images that I was trying to convey in detail. I used lots and lots of words to do this, and only in recent years have I finally faced the fact that there is indeed a difference between "immersion" and "drowning."

Perhaps if I'd been able to formulate a decent plot or had any ideas worth writing about I would have been less obsessed with description. Maybe not--let's just say it took me a long time to get what "show, not tell" really meant.

When I went back to college several years ago, I was fortunate enough to have a professor who forced me to become a more economical writer. He was a stickler for good writing, and was determined to weed out my bad habits. After three years of constantly pummeling me with the need to write concise, clear prose, I think he succeeded. My first drafts are still too wordy, but from him I learned how to ruthlessly edit, and how to make each word carry its own weight.

I learned how to write, but I also learned how to think. Though I have always been a voracious reader, and curious about a lot of things, I was a pretty diffuse, sloppy thinker. My ability to use what I'd read and what I'd observed became much more focused. That's definitely influenced the way I write fiction; I now have things that I can write about, and ideas upon which I can anchor a plot.

So while I may ramble on in my posts, I'm trying to carry these lessons over into my fiction by cutting out unnecessary descriptions and carefully choosing individual words. I'm still no minimalist, but I'm no longer using heavy descriptive passages to compensate for the lack of a real story.

04-14-2005, 06:20 PM
let's talk style.

how has yours evolved and what, or who, has influenced it?

Compared to when I started, my writing is much tighter and more active. Less verbose and more specific when it comes to word choice. Although a lot of that does happen after I get down a first draft, which almost always reflects what I want to say, rather than how I want to say it. The how I want to say it depends on the market - essay? magazine? contest? part of a bigger picture? for myself?

how is your style connected to your personality, your philosophy or your worldview?
I interpret this question as being mostly about voice. This is probably one reason why I find fiction difficult - I'm just not sure I can write as if I were someone else, inhabit someone else. In life, I'm often putting myself in another's shoes. But to write that way...hmm - just not something I've attempted or studied. Plus, I have so many personalities to figure out anyway. I think they offer me enough variety for now.

what about your style makes your writing?
I'm very serious but I love to laugh, and I need to laugh. And I have a wild side that rarely gets out except under very specific circumstances (meaning, I feel safe and comfortable doing so). When the conditions exist to let my hair down or let what I want to say out (since sometimes it's a more angry venting thing), my voice solidifies and persuades the most. That's my opinion anyway! Readers need to let me know otherwise.

04-14-2005, 06:21 PM
why do you write the way you write?

Because it's the only way I know how.

04-14-2005, 09:34 PM
My style is cinematic, with an underlying thread of darkness--a disturbing thread that runs through the writing and often surfaces in scenes that betas have said---Move over King here comes SRHowen, but I tend to think of them as moments that compare to Slaghuter House Five--or Clive Barker, the fiction reality presented in a way that makes the reader blink or stare at the ceiling fan all night because the thread of unease in the book has disturbed them on a subconscious level--fiction reality that seems stronger than their reality.

And that does reflect me in a lot of ways. I'm a hand talker--cinematic, and I have an uncanny recall of verbal conversations to the word (verbatim,) to the hand gestures and tones used--have a verbal discussion with Shawn and she can repeat it two years later--yikes. (scares people) People ask me if I am Ok, or say Shawn, you're weird. I have few friends-- most people don't like me--they find being around me disturbing, but can't explain why.

So, I am a cinematic person with an aura that people are disturbed by. The few friends I have off-line--hmm, I can think of only one who I have hung out with just accept me for who I am--uh oh Shawn's zoned out again someone find her a lap top the voices are speaking to her again. So most of my friends are online, in fact all but one of them. Some I talk to on the phone regularly and we sent snail mail stuff as well. But when they talk about getting together in person---well, I can only say they would not be my friend for long--I spook people in person once they get to know me or hang around me at all.

And that is reflected in my writing.


04-14-2005, 09:56 PM
I write much like I speak. I started out writing comedy, and humour has always come naturally to me. It's been my way of coping in life, and I just see things with a certain skew.

While working on my MFA (which I didn't finish), I tried to peel back the humour and see what was underneath. Occasionally I found poetic flourishes, but mostly what I wrote was extremely dark; I lost the humour completely.

Two bad habits: 1) Because I write up to 3000 words/week for work, I can get slipshod and take shortcuts. Usually I try to make every review the best piece of writing it can be, but more often than not, RL takes precedence and I go with "good enough." 2) I overwrite, just like I overspeak. When I'm writing creatively, I throw everything out there - everything - and then sculpt a piece out of that (I visualize it as very much like sculpting, whittling away the unnecessary bits to find what's in the middle). In the end, it works for me, but it's terribly time-inefficient.

I wish my writing were more poetic (like yours, William!), but to get even one line of that, it takes a long, long time and a tonne of silence and introspection. When I'm in a deep depression, writing poetically comes much more easily. Unfortunately, those are the times I can't be bothered to get out of bed.

I'd agree with the cinematic style, because I started working in theatre and television. When I'm describing locations or even character setups, I think in terms of "wide shot" "zoom" "pan" "tight shot" etc.

My life has been a series of odd events, made odder by my brain. Every time something happens (or I do something offbeat), I think "There's a story!" Yet when I look at my life, I don't see any material. I have to have friends remind me of situations and events.

For whatever that's worth...

04-14-2005, 09:57 PM
Originally Posted by William Haskins

let's talk style.

how has yours evolved and what, or who, has influenced it?

I babble in my writing as I do when I speak, so this leaves a lot of room for cutting and editing the first draft. Over the years my writing has tightened up some, but there is always room for improvement. My mentor, years ago, told me to use the KISS rule. (Keep It Short & Simple.) I donít know that Iíve ever come close to that rule in writing. :) I couldnít say there is one person who has influenced what or how I write. Although reading all genres and different authors certainly has shown me what it takes to get published.

how is your style connected to your personality, your philosophy or your worldview?

This is a difficult question. Iíve written in several genres. My horror writing certainly doesnít reflect my personality. WellÖthen again, maybe it does. Rather than spout off at someone if s/he upsets me, I make that person a character. LOL My romance writing definitely doesnít reflect my personality because I havenít had what I call romance in my life. Article, essay, and memoir writing, I suppose may reflect some of my traits. Iím just an old lady with a lot of great memories to reflect on and write about. Iíve got a tough outer shell, but Iím all mush in the heart of things. :)

what about your style makes your writing?

I take life very serious and I believe that comes out in most everything I write. I love to laugh and make people laugh, so if the story calls for it, readers may find both humor and tears in my work. Any hard lesson Iíve learned through life is worth sharing with others. When I put myself out there in my personal essays, I hope that each reader takes something good from what Iíve written; a ray of hope, a smile, an encouragement in some way.

Of course, this is how I see my writing. I'd much rather hear the opinions of readers as to what conclusions they reach about my style and personality from my writing.

By the way, William, great questions here.:)

aka eraser
04-14-2005, 10:44 PM
I mostly write conversationally, as if telling a story around a campfire.

04-14-2005, 11:18 PM
I tend to write the way I think, but not necessarily how I speak. And there is always some skewed, off-kilter view in my head, so that tends to show up in my writing.

I think my biggest problem is taking what I see in my head, and putting words to it, so my writing, while off-center from the norm, is often sparse. I have to work on making my words richer.

04-15-2005, 02:56 AM
i write the way i look at the world. voice germinates from pov. i read gone in sixty seconds many years ago and i was struck by his style. he is from boston and he talked and wrote much like i would describe things.

i try to keep it lean and mean and visual, like me.


04-15-2005, 03:04 AM
I do stand up comedy, and my writing style comes from that. Usually, my writing is not what you would call "flowing". It jumps around. That's why I could never write a novel, or book. I mainly write short, choppy, humorous pieces. It's fun for me, and basically that's all I'm looking for. If it makes me giggle, then by Larry, that's good enough. Maybe something I write randomly will turn into something for the stand up act.

I never know what I'm going to write when I sit down. My sister does, but that's because she's psychic. :Wha:


04-15-2005, 03:20 AM
i write to make quell the voices. they usually stop then.

seriously, my creative writing takes the vein of description and emotion. it makes a crappy day better, a good day great, and a crappy series of events into something managble. no, writing is not therapy for me--it is a way of life. it's how i know that i am alive, still sane, and that i haven't forgotten who i am. most importantly, writing is an exploration of life--the life i live, the people around me, and the things i have yet to see and achieve.


04-15-2005, 03:48 AM
What an interesting thought.
I write in a terse, odd style when I write fiction. Think Vonnegut. Also think I have been influenced by James Irving.

As for non-fiction . . . I have no excuse.

04-15-2005, 04:37 AM
how has yours evolved and what, or who, has influenced it?

I started in poetry, mostly just sappy teenage crap. From there I took as many creative writing/English classes my high school had to offer. My teacher (who later became my favorite) asked me once if I had plagiarized Hemmingway...he was kidding. But at that point I had never read Hemmingway. He made me read them all. I think I've drifted a little from that simplistic style. But my words still come across poetic, can't get rid of that. I've been writing more religion based fiction, after reading Neil Gaiman too much. Right now, I'm stuck in a previous lives rut, can't stop writing about them.

how is your style connected to your personality, your philosophy or your worldview?

Wow, this one strikes at the heart. I would expect nothing less of you, William. I suppose I am open to all sorts of lifestyles, cultures, religions and thoughts. I like my writing to reflect that as well. I want to have a good enough understanding of the world and the people in it so that I can write them well. Because of this, I talk to people all the time. On the street, in the store, in parks, in my head... :) I would love to know everyone, really. But more importantly I would love to be able to converse with anyone I ever met, in their native tongue. I don't ever want to stop learning. I don't want my books to teach in a way that's off putting, but I would like my readers to feel like they gained insight or a fresh perspective after reading it/them. That's how I like to feel everyday. Oh, god! Do I sound like a new age freak? I'm not, really!


04-15-2005, 06:26 AM
I write a lot of sentimental prose especially for BMA (some who frequent the greeting card forum know of this) yet often I veer off to write different, odd kinds of things. Like a little while ago I was in a really crappy, down kind of mood (and no, it wasn't pms!) and I wrote this strange thing entitled "Life is Just Bulls**t"! My oldest daughter read it, she turned to me and said, "Mom, this is the best thing I've ever read that you've written!!" I was shocked by her reaction - go figure. Anyway, it's all about the mood and feel and emotion, I think. Write on!

Debbie :Thumbs:

04-15-2005, 07:59 AM
I had another thought re: worldview. I'm fascinated by psychology, whether it be of an individual or a group. I'm always trying to understand where other people are coming from or how they experience life. I think much of my writing explores those differences (at least, the pieces that aren't all about me!) I also want readers to understand different people and situations; I don't know how successfully I accomplish that, but my back-burner WIPs are all behind-the-scenes stories.

I don't think of myself as an "issues writer," but many of my pieces wind up conveying a personal or political belief, or examining some aspect of a social issue. That's where I think humour probably comes in handy. With the Crossroads piece, I really tried to keep it as light as possible, given the topic. That was my biggest challenge, trying to infuse it with humour.

And one more thing: I am extremely direct in person. There's little I won't say, and I generally call things like I see them (though I simultaneously have a fear of being ostracized). That's probably fine for some of my characters. One of the most difficult types of characters for me to write, however, is one who can't communicate well.

Just a few more cents in. Maybe once I've posted more of my creative work here, you all can tell me whether you think my self-assessment is accurate.

04-15-2005, 08:00 AM
What about you? I'm curious about how your style has developed and how it relates to your experience of the world.

04-15-2005, 08:39 AM
Great question, but who is so insightful as to answer it accurately?

I think I write the way I think. That's not true, though. I don't always put down the words in the order in which they occurred to me. I rewrite, rearrange, find synonyms, for clarity, but a lot of that goes on before I've put down anything: it happens in my head, when I see that someone else won't understand what I was going to say.

I don't have a characteristic style. I've done parodies in other people's styles. If I'm writing something factual, the style is your basic expository prose.

William Haskins
04-15-2005, 09:01 AM
the most notable evolution in my approach was, by far, from a verbose to a minimalist style. it wasn't overnight. it occurred over a period of probably 10 years and was first (and more) evident in my poems.

part of it was unconscious, a love of imagist poetry, a prominent hemingway phase, a near obsession with picasso and then reading translated works, like kafka or camus, whose translations take on a simple, but surreal, quality in english.

but part of it was conscious. i found, as an adult, i loathed my early work (before the age of 15 or 16) and i became interested in experimenting with language in general, if only to find out if i had something better inside me. i read a lot of beat writers, whose innovations were many, including burroughs' "cut-up" method, basically randomizing words into abstract, but ultimately coherent, expression. i juxtaposed that with the formal, elegant poetry of the romantics and i found some middle ground that seemed the target of my ambition.

i came to feel that, like an atom being smashed, language could release more energy when compressed. this fit with my desire to get away from my earlier, more elastic, work and i found it particularly effective in composing poetry. squeeze it until it pops.

so in terms of mechanical style, i seek to do the most damage with the fewest words possible, giving every word as much power as i can. i don't always succeeed, for sure, but that's the goal.

philosophically, i'm a prisoner of my own worldview. i make no apologies for that; indeed, i've come to view it as a strength.

i agree with camus when he said "a novel is never anything but a philosophy put into images".

in fiction, the result is that my characters almost always inhabit a godless world, not necessarily manovolent, but ambivalent at best.

my protagonists are almost always working class, or underclass or criminal class. they typically reject, and are hostile to, status-seeking and commercialism and all of the trappings of pop culture.

if there is a nobility in my characters, it's in the acceptance of the world-as-wilderness and a willingness to brave that cold existence to create their own destiny.

in poetry, it manifests itself in a simultaneous embrace and a rejection of emotional vulnerability.

love exists, but it is punished. happiness exists, but it's only a trick of light. and yet, even knowing this, love and happiness are still worthy of pursuit.

i'm also big into the causes and consequences of fear. it fascinates me, how people react to the oppressive forces in their lives.

i don't know. that's a partial answer, i know... but i've never known another kind.

plus it's late, and i'm stoned.

04-15-2005, 09:24 AM
So, in other words, same as me.


Liam Jackson
04-15-2005, 09:40 AM
<<<i'm also big into the causes and consequences of fear. it fascinates me, how people react to the oppressive forces in their lives.>>>

We may have to wax long on this issue at some later date.
As for your original question...

I wish I could say my style was a matter of conscious effort. I admire those who study style and convention, then choose, and successfully follow a particular path.

I think my style, or lack thereof, is an extension of my former physical self. As I abruptly moved away from certain physically demanding pursuits related to my primary occupation, I underwent some painful seperation anxiety. Oddly, about that same time, my current style of writing reared it's pointed little head. I can't say for certain that the two events are related, but it certainly seems that way.

For my next trick, (nothing up my sleeves) I intend to develop the endearing quality of brevity. From verbose to minimalist in 10 easy lessons.
I think this is going to prove a major pain in the ***. We shall see.

04-15-2005, 05:53 PM
Honestly, I don't know where my style comes from. I wasn't a good "reader" when I was younger, so I don't think I picked anything up from any authors -- at least not consciously. I think it has to come from my desire to say a lot of things in the fewest words possible. ;) I've always been terse, and I think over things a few times before I actually say anything, so my writing reflects that thoughtfulness, I guess. I also listen to the cadence and write what I feel is pleasing to the ear. Some of my readers have told me that my prose has a musical/lyrical (but not "poetic") quality to it.

I also prefer using simple words -- words that eighth- to tenth-graders would know without having to consult a dictionary. To me, it's not a matter of showing off my sophisticated vocabulary (truth be told, volcabulary is never my strong suit). It's about using the right word.

04-15-2005, 06:05 PM
I also listen to the cadence and write what I feel is pleasing to the ear. Cadence is important to me, too. I can spend hours trying to figure out which arrangement of a sentence sounds best.

Re: vocabulary - I was raised in a house where verbal ability was the currency of choice and the thesaurus might as well have been the bible. I always seek to find the most specific word, and sometimes people read that as elitist. But mostly it's just about finding the perfect word. I spent much of my life using more general words to make others more comfortable, but it doesn't feel true to my voice/self. Then again, whereas William writes working class people, my experience is mostly upper-middle-class, with its own set of issues (ever read Ordinary People? ;))

William - very cool to hear more about what's behind your writing. Makes a lot of sense. Also makes me see your stuff in an expanded way.

Gotta work on the verbal overflow thing; that's part of why I love Hemingway and, for contemporary writers, Ron Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy.

William Haskins
04-16-2005, 01:39 AM
i agree. cadence is important. i judge the books i read to my son at night by the rhythm i can establish in reading it aloud. you can tell that especially to a child, a pleasing meter in prose makes it far more alive.

Julie Worth
04-16-2005, 01:56 AM
let's talk style.

how has yours evolved and what, or who, has influenced it?

how is your style connected to your personality, your philosophy or your worldview?

what about your style makes your writing?

Iím a lazy person, but when I write, Iím all action, all plot. Then later I realize the material is too fast, so I throw in some description, sodden masses of words here and there. Not too much, just enough so that people can breathe. Iím happiest writing on the edge. I put my characters in some terrible predicament at the end of a chapter, and then I think, Iíve done it now, thereís no way out. Thatís my gameóchallenging myself to solve the insoluble.

When I write, I donít think about style at all. When I edit, and donít think about words or punctuation or any technical thing, only the effect. Is it right? Is the emotion there? Does it flow?

Do I dream when I read it?

04-16-2005, 02:06 AM
My favorite book in high school was Frankenstein, and from that point onward my writing had become affected -- overwrought and hardly potable. It took me years to realize it, though, and when I did, I started reading more and more modern literature --not quite minimalist stuff, but stuff that wasn't quite so fluffy-- in an effort to simplify and therefore amplify my prose.

And I'm still working on it.

At the present, my main effort is to match the rhythm of a piece to the setting and characters' moods. As in, if they're freaking out, I try tweak my writing rhythmically: make my sentences fall on unsuspected notes, have monosyllabic words, aligned in succession, affront the rear of the throat.

I have a bad habit of making up words and ****ing naughtily with grammar, too.

In essence, though, I think my 'style,' as it were, differs from piece to piece. And it's certainly not my own yet; it's much too unwieldy for that, I think.

04-16-2005, 03:56 AM
Just because.

Don't question me.

Marisa Louise
04-30-2005, 01:18 PM

how has yours evolved and what, or who, has influenced it?

I wouldn't necessarily say that my work has evolved (yet). My work pops around from thing to thing, and I'm rather new to the scene. As for what or who has influenced my writing, it's definitely a what! My emotions affect my work big time. Up until the point in time that I joined this forum, I've not been much of a reader. I find it difficult to keep my attention in books, almost always, regardless of the material. So, it is definitely not something to do with anything like that at this point in time. An author, then, hasn't had an affect so far.

how is your style connected to your personality, your philosophy or your worldview?

My style is deeply connected to who I am, my thoughts, and my emotions. I am a very emotional writer, and a very visual one. I see what I am writing. But as for having to do with my personality and my emotions, a good example is when I try to write about a family. If I were to create a family in my mind, and a story around them, it would probably either come across as a family that is much too perfect, and happy, or very dramatic and negative. That is a reflection of my own family life and memories from childhood. Family has never really been too defined in my life, so I don't quite know how to define and strongly outline a family realistically in my writing.

Often times when I write, it is what I feel and think of life at the moment, so my philosophies are almost always present; but worldview? Worldview is simply not something that really is incorporated, I don't believe. I don't think that I have a very defined "worldview" in my life so to say. But then, I guess if it is neither present in my work nor strongly represented in my life, that would also be reflective now, wouldn't it?

what about your style makes your writing?

I'm not sure yet. As I develop more of a sense of "being" as a writer, I'll get back to you!

Tough questions!

04-30-2005, 07:24 PM
how has yours evolved and what, or who, has influenced it?

how is your style connected to your personality, your philosophy or your worldview?

what about your style makes your writing?

My style seems to always be the same. I am annoyed with myself for not being able to break out of it. I seem to be able to only write fiction in first person. My earlier influences have been John Knowles, JD Salinger, Michael Chabon, Jack Kerouac, Sylvia Plath...etc. They all write wonderful first person. They were able to put me into their novels as a central character. That's how I like to read...so, invariably, that's how I like to write. But, I've been craving getting away from First Person and whenever I try it seems to pale in comparison to my first person writing.

My style is connected to my personality because most of my fiction is about neurotic characters or people who are really out there, odd, desperate, searching, quirky. That's kind of where I am too...slightly left of centre. I try to make sense of thinks just as my characters do.

What about my style makes my writing. This is only a hope...I don't know if it's actually the truth or not. I think my style connects with people.

05-02-2005, 06:32 AM
Hmmmmm. my natural style always reminded me of a detective novel. First person, sarcastic, cynical and not shy.

Iíve been working on trying to neutralize that so as to be able to write this SF/Fantasy WIP plus I want to be able to write whatever I choose to write and not be a slave to my natural style.

Itís been evolving and I think my writing is pretty active and Iím learning to pack more punch in each word I choose and each sentence I shape.

When I first started writing stories, they were always about guys who lived on the fringe of society. The dark hero. They werenít some shiny clone in the 9-5 rat race who believed consumerism was a religion. They had a strict code of honor, held themselves to a high moral standard and werenít too concerned with everyday ďrulesĒ.

And compared to the jackals in high places they were saints - who would never let down a friend or prey on the good-hearted or the weak. In other words, theyíd never make it in corporate America.

I like writing stories that give a positive message. I donít mean stories that the world is a bright and beautiful shiny place because whether we like it or not Ė this world we live in is a dark and dangerous place. Love is just betrayal delayed and Happiness a temporary opiate.

Yet nevertheless, I like to write stories that show that regardless of this Ė you go on. Regardless of what life throws at you -you never lay down and you never say die and you never surrender. And maybe, just maybe, in the end youíll find what you were seeking and never even knew.

And then again maybe you wonít.

But itís better to die standing than to live on your kneesÖ..

11-25-2007, 05:26 PM
I write the way I think and speak. It's really not my fault that I have a evil sense of humour.
Blame my mother.