Writing Style Isn’t Just Natural: Basic Storytelling Elements Part 2

Welcome to my ten-part series where we’ll be going through the basics of storytelling as outlined in my guidebook The 10 Lost Elements of Storytelling – a book you can get for free by subscribing to my newsletter! In these posts, we’ll be going over the basics of these storytelling elements, but my guidebook is more detailed on some subjects and provides examples and resources. All you need to do is say “yes” to receiving a fun, inspirational, and educational newsletter once a month.

Writing style might seem an odd thing to talk about when considering the basics of storytelling. For a long time, I thought that style was just the natural way a person wrote, like their unique speaking voice. Turns out it’s not! It’s important to distinguish between voice and tone, a topic I covered extensively in another post. While a writer’s voice does refer to their distinctive way of writing, writing style is totally different and adapts based on what you’re writing. For example, I wouldn’t use the same writing style for a children’s book as I’d use for an action novel. These genres call for different styles, and on top of the genre conventions, you can add a more unique flair to your style still.

Take probably one of the most well-known examples of standout style: A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s appropriately written in the style of children’s books, but Daniel Handler’s – I mean, Lemony Snicket’s – quirky writing adds another layer, using a fictional but not-directly-involved narrator to tell the tale. Could the story have still worked if told in a more straightforward manner? Sure, but then we probably wouldn’t be talking about it right now! The way Snicket talks directly to the reader, defines words, and tells the story from an almost-omniscient perspective is what makes the series unforgettable. Not every book needs this kind of distinctive style, though. Your style might be more natural and blend in with the story so well that it’s hardly noticed, which can be just as good as a unique style.

Writing style should either be memorable or invisible, with no room for anything in between. The point of style is to add to the story you’ve created, not take away from it. Lemony Snicket’s narration is meant to be noticed, and it works in tandem with the plot and characters to further the reader’s comprehension and immersion into the story. But take this same type of style and put it in a post-apocalyptic thriller, and your reader is left wondering why they picked up the book. It just doesn’t fit the audience or the genre.

If your writing style isn’t a part of the story itself, your goal is to keep it hidden in the background. When done correctly, readers probably won’t even notice your style because you’re presenting them with the story in such a way that they’re completely immersed in it. You’ve woven words, events, and emotions together so well that the reader is lost in your fictional world and the physical words on the page no longer matter…unless you make a mistake and your style, grammar, spelling, etc. deviates. An error like that will then pull the reader out of the story world and “break the spell,” if you will.

Writing style isn’t something you naturally just get right, either. It takes practice, just like every other aspect of writing, and you need to learn which styles are appropriate for various types of writing and/or genres. The first step is to read good books. Next, try practising your own style in one genre first, then branch out to another to get the hang of adapting. Experiment with unreliable or quirky narrators along the way to enhance your style.

For your characters and plot to be successful, they need to be backed up by the perfect writing style. Get this element right, and you’re on your way to writing a memorable story!

Happy writing!

If you enjoyed this post, I hope you’ll consider donating to the blog and/or reading my stories on Vocal so I can continue to produce free content!

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Photo by Keagan Henman on Unsplash

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When you write as much as I do, you have to take frequent breaks from sitting. A standing desk (not a whole desk, but a mini desk that will sit on top of my current desk with my laptop, keyboard, and mouse and extend upward) will allow me to continue working while maintaining that good blood flow to my brain. Thank you so much for your support that allows me to keep producing free content. God bless you! ♥️ E.J.


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