by Steve Hooley
After reading JSB’s post on 2/21/21, Who is on Your Writing Rushmore? – https://killzoneblog.com/2021/02/who-is-on-your-writing-rushmore.html – I have been working on my remedial reading list. If you missed that post, it is worth reviewing for the list of “Greatest of all time” (GOAT) authors, presented in the article and in the comments.
Here is the list of GOAT Authors (compiled from the post and comments) if you want to copy and paste:
- Raymond Chandler
- Agatha Christie
- Jane Austen
- Charlotte Bronte
- George Eliot
- Arthur Conan Doyle
- Edgar Allan Poe
- C. S. Lewis
- Ray Bradbury
- George Orwell
- Elmore Leonard
- H. G. Wells
- Jules Verne
- O. Henry
The reason for the topic today – “Style, the Spectrum”: I read Raymond Chandler and Hemingway back-to-back. Talk about different styles. Hemingway’s writing has been described as “spare, tight prose.” Chandler’s style is saturated with description. At the beginning of The Big Sleep, every other sentence contains a simile. I exaggerate, but description definitely gets your attention.
So, what is “style” in writing?
According to – https://literarydevices.net/style/
“The style in writing can be defined as the way a writer writes. It is the technique that an individual author uses in his writing. It varies from author to author, and depends upon one’s syntax, word choice, and tone. It can also be described as a “voice” that readers listen to when they read the work of a writer.”
The author of the article lists four “basic” styles: expositive or argumentative, descriptive, persuasive, and narrative. For our discussion today, we are focusing on descriptive and narrative.
Descriptive style: “In descriptive writing style, the author focuses on describing an event, a character or a place in detail. Sometimes, descriptive writing style is poetic in nature, where the author specifies an event, an object, or a thing rather than merely giving information about an event that has happened. Usually, the description incorporates sensory details.
Narrative: “Narrative writing style is a type of writing wherein the writer narrates a story. It includes short stories, novels, novellas, biographies, and poetry.”
I remembered JSB describing John D. MacDonald’s style as having just the right amount of literary poetry (“unobtrusive poetry”) sprinkled in for seasoning, and went back to reread John D. MacDonald’s The Deep Blue Good-by. I found a style somewhere in the middle, between Chandler’s and Hemingway’s.
In a review of The Kill Zone blog I found tributes to MacDonald by JSB and Kris:
Kris’s comment on MacDonald’s style – https://killzoneblog.com/2016/05/john-d-and-meand-all-brother-writers-i.html
His style “had an ease and breeze as fresh as the ocean winds”
JSB’s comment on MacDonald’s style – https://killzoneblog.com/2018/06/authors-i-have-learned-from-john-d-macdonald.html –
“The first lesson I picked up from a wide reading of MacDonald is what he termed “unobtrusive poetry” in the style. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish. You don’t want a style that calls so much attention to itself that’s all the reader is thinking about. On the other hand, it’s not stripped-down minimalism of the Hemingway-Cain school.”
I didn’t see MacDonald’s name on the GOAT list, but I greatly enjoyed his style.
And I realized that I definitely liked his style better than many others, and it would influence which books I wanted to read in the future. I then wondered, does my favorite style for reading affect the style I seek to attain in my writing?
And that is our discussion for today.
Which author’s writing style do you most enjoy reading? Does that affect which books you plan to buy or read? And does that style, influence the voice and style you seek to attain in your own writing?