Fashion for Writers: Break Style — Adhere to Syntax



I made a choice as a writer today. Instead of bending to the stylistic choices of other writers, I decided to mine own voice be true. I try to adhere to the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but break them if it adds flavor to my story. To err is human and making grammatical and spelling errors happens (should you spot one, send me a not). A basic spellchecker is good; grammar checkers sometimes make mistakes.

To aid my writing, on the advice of others, I downloaded a trial of a grammar, speller, active/passive, used the word too many times app. Charts, graphs, green-red-yellow lights, percentages, get a score 100. According to the app, I failed miserably in some areas. Honing a craft over years, only hastily to be told I am doing it incorrectly by a machine. I ran screaming to the hills. Adverbs are out, gerunds too, careful with adjectives, word repetition, long sentences are cumbersome to read, three-syllable words as well. How do we write something worth reading, if we are so constrained by stylistic choices interpreted as rules?

There are most emphatically, I stress, rules of grammar and spelling to which one should adhere. Style is achieved by using a plethora of words correctly. This does not mean that we all must use the same style. Would make for very bland reading, if you ask me. As writers, we search for “our” voice, digging deep within to find what makes our writing individualized and sing. Confidence in creating one’s own voice is what it is all about. Use of the vast variety of words strung together in a well-written (I know hyphens are out too) sentence will hold my attention well beyond one cut off in its prime.

Open a contemporary book and you will see that the paragraphs are short. The sentences are too. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it is for pacing. Sometimes it feels choppy. I like my reading smooth.

Do what works for you, and if you feel that writing a long sentence, as long as it is well-written, is thought out, is interesting, is integral to the story, is what you want to do, then by all means do it and above all, have fun.

I had a writer’s breakdown a few days ago and suffered from a case of genre confusion. It is de rigueur and imperative that one define their writing genre. Meet someone new in writing circles, extend your hand and slot yourself in. Literary used to mean well-written, long passages of prose, a smattering of dialog, and characters whose lives we followed from a distance, and a plot of some sort, and now, I learn, maybe not. How does one have a story without some semblance of a plot? Literary is having a crisis of its own at the moment, plots are in jeopardy. Crikey, as a close friend of mine likes to say.

Characters should always be relatable, but must I search through the cupboards with them, may I not observe over their shoulder as they reach for the cup? Sometimes I just want them to do the action, and I want to peer in from afar. Characters can be close, distant, or omniscient. What does your character need to come to life? Writers, my fellow pen wielders, you choose how close or far the reader shall be from the page. Draw me in, throw me out, just write it in a voice that is yours, so I hear it ringing in my ears. Absorb and contemplate the world around you, but when you let it out, make sure it is your words, crafted into a style that says YOU all over it.

Think of writing like fashion. Fashion is what’s hanging on the rack; style is how you pull the pieces together.


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