Friday, January 23, 2009

Style and Sophistication in Writing

How to keep your writing sophisticated and have others label your work as professional depends on your style, i.e. what techniques you use to create. It goes without saying (but I will anyway) that certain ones work well, but often only in certain situations. Let's consider poetry. The use of flowery, descriptive words, metaphors, similes, etc. fit nicely here. However, take that language and put it in a crime novel and it would sound totally out of place. If you are the poet, but want to write mysteries, watch your language! So, if the guy with the gun, ready to murder his cheating wife is in the middle of a heated dialog, it would not be wise to describe how his angry eyes are like "shining, blue sapphire jewels". In fact, the frequent use of similes and metaphors tends to pull the story away from the events. Remember, you are here to tell a story, the plot must be developed, and you should not be taking any detours that make you forget where you are supposed to be. Other stylistic devices such as words in italics, exclamation points, words in parentheses, frequent use of -ly adverbs, these, too distract. And let's face it...writing with all those bells and whistles implies you are insecure and trying too hard. You don't need to shove your writing in the reader's face to get his attention. If you write a great story, attend to the events, that will attract readers. To study this further, take a look at some of your favorite authors' work, but don't focus so much on the story. Rather, study their styles of writing, pay close attention to how they phrase, the descriptive words they use, etc. Let me know if you find very many of those stylistic detractors. And I'd be curious to know your thoughts about this. As writers, how hard is it for you to avoid these mistakes?

4 comments:

Nick said...

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Kristel Posh said...

As a writer, it's so hard to remain sophisticated when you stress out your opinions especially in research papers.

brainsnorts said...

there's a fight between style and substance. for example, few people can build a sentence as well as stephen king. i "read" books on cd while driving to and from work, so i don't actually read anything but listen instead. his style of writing is nearly perfect. however, his stories lack so much it's not even funny.

still, there are many writers who are more highly regarded as novelists. i've tried to read their work, but i can't get past the first chapter because my ears are so offended by the poor sentence structure. i've abandoned a good handful of classics simply because i couldn't stand listening to the poor composition.

result - i "read" mostly anything king writes, but i already know i'm going to be disappointed by the ending.

teacherwriter said...

Brainsnorts - "my ears are so offended by the poor sentence structure". Ah, the English teacher prevails! Literary license allows authors of fiction to choose their diction, whether it be eloquent, formal sentence structures or informal, smattered with slang and incomplete sentences. However, that's no excuse for poorly constructed writing (if that's what you are referring to). Unless, of course, it falls into dialog. Words between quotes-- won't touch 'em! Now, about those research papers the students turned in....I'm getting a major migraine! Excuse me while I go take my meds....