Archive for April, 2013

His, yours, theirs or Gods – picking a POV.
April 28, 2013

daffodils

‘I wandered lonely as a cloud …’ (William Wordsworth)- 1st  person POV

 

 

‘He rammed the dagger hard under his victims ribs and watched the blood ooze stickily over his hand …’ (Debbie Martin) 3rd person POVdagger

 

And the tricky question is – ‘to be or not to …’ No, the trickier question still is ‘which POV to use?’

 

There are in fact several on offer – the five types of point of view (POV) are:

1. 1st Person Point of View – the person telling the story does it through their own eyes ‘I’. It allows the author to develop the inner workings of their characters mind and emotions in fine detail, but can be hard to pull off unless the character is completely ‘real’. Wonderful for psycho’s and deeply philosophical themes as you can really delve into motivations, but be careful not to get caught up in too much tell and not enough show..

2. 3rd Person Point of View – the characters actions are reported ‘he/she/they’ but can be expanded on by some explanation of why they do what they do… ‘she stole him. She thought Carrie must have known that she would steal her lover. Why wouldn’t she when she’d always been a bitch to her? It was just too easy not to …’ This POV reports fully, and has the advantage of being able to comment on the motivations behind the characters actions but is not ‘inside the head’ of the character as one could be when writing in 1st person POV. A useful mix of show and tell.

3. 3rd Person limited POV – the characters actions are reported but without the advantage of examining why they do as they do. The author has to really concentrate on showing why, rather than POV confusiontelling. ‘She stole Carrie’s lover. She’d always been a bitch towards her in the past …’ (but why had she?)

4. Omniscient Point of View – everything is revealed to the reader but not to the characters – often by a narrator, so the reader knows why everyone does everything, but the characters don’t. It’s rather like standing on the top of a tall building and watching the people scrabble around like ants below – you know who is about to be squished and who run off with the big crumb some other human dropped, but they don’t.

5. Limited Omniscient Point of View – like the characters, there are hidden parts of the story that the reader doesn’t know either  – a lot like real life, actually!

Once you’ve picked your POV, the trick is to stick to it – or rather, the trick is not to get unstuck by it and find you’ve switched POV half way through, without realising it…

‘He watched her approach from a distance, marvelling at the easy way she picked her way through the molehills that had erupted overnight on the smooth green lawn. She was slim and lithe, the way he liked women to be. The old fat woman who ran the site office disgusted him with her rolls of fat. This woman enchanted him.

She in turn was amused by his close scrutiny of her, wondering if he watched all women as closely as this…’

confusionIn the first paragraph, we are in 3rd person POV, which is fine.

 

In the second paragraph, we are also in 3rd person POV – which is also fine – but it is a different character’s 3rd person POV. Whoever you start with, stick with them; and whichever POV you are using, keep within it. Consistency is key.

 

I used 1st person POV all the way through in my novel Courting the Dark, which is due out in July. The twist though was that I have three heads I jump into to tell the tale – and one of them is very sick indeed, but the others don’t know that – and neither does the reader know who it is either! If you are telling all in 1st person POV, remember to also keep your reader hooked along the way. They either have to absolutely love and identify with the character your writing as, or be fascinated to know what is going to happen next despite being already in their head …

A little on characterisation  coming up next time …

Follow me on Twitter @Storytellerdeb

On Facebook: www.facebook.com/DebbieMartin.Author

or via my website: www.debbiemartin.co.uk

 

 

 

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Interview with a vampire (writer) …
April 21, 2013

That got everyone’s attention, didn’t it? No, not with Tom Cruise in the film of, but with Mark Knight – author of the Daniel Dark series, and with the latest of them now out:

Blood Family: Quest for the Vampire Key can be bought in paperback here,  and in ebook format here.

Often the book-buying preferences of the reading public follow trends, and vampires and the associated blood-lust issues are very much the thing now. I was fascinated when doing a recent book signing in Waterstones to read the titles in the teens and YA fiction near me. They were nearly all related to vampires and werewolves. Chatting to an avid youung reader who was scouring them for her next good read I asked her what she thought of them and she said she would actually like the opportunity to read something more closely linked to the average teenagers daily life, but escapism is a good thing too.

Let me introduce you to  Mark then who writes in this genre and enjoy the trend as it happens with his series. This is Mark talking about himself and his writing:

Mark Knight author (3)Would you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?

 

Well, I grew up in America, living everywhere from California to Boston, son of an Irish father and a British mother who had immigrated to the US shortly before I was born. It was while I was still a young teenager living in Massachusetts that I discovered that I wanted to write, because I loved strange tales, be it science fiction, ghost stories, or horror. I started with short stories, then novels. Of course, those early ones were dire. But I knew I wanted to be a published author one day. Our family moved to Ireland where I finished school and also completed my first novel, a space adventure. In the early 80s I moved to the UK. Since then, I have been writing novels, screenplays, and the occasional short story. Now I concentrate mostly on Young Adult urban fantasy, which I found to be the most fun to write.

Which project are you currently promoting?

 Currently I am promoting my Young Adult urban fantasy novel, Blood Family – Quest for the Vampire Key.

Blood Family is a different kind of vampire book. I wanted to write about vampires, keeping all the tried-and-tested cool elements intact – the vampire’s strength, blood-lust, etc – but adding new elements to the lore, especially to what vampires were, their origins. The theory of other dimensions have always fascinated me. What if, I thought, vampires were interdimensonal creatures that took over the bodies of humans, transforming them and making them into the fanged bloodsuckers we know and love? And what if one of those bloodsuckers then sired a child with a human? That half-vampire child would have quite a life, especially if he knew nothing of his true parentage. Daniel Dark starts off that way, a normal teenager. Then he finds out what he is, and everything changes. That sets him on a quest, and an extremely perilous one, to confront his vampire father and find his birth mother, utilizing his emerging vampire powers along the way.

What inspired you to write this book?

I have always loved vampire stories; one of the first stories I ever read was a short story about a vampire.  I knew I wanted to write a tale about a normal teen who found out that he was different, that something amazing and terrifying lurked within him, that only emerges after a key event. That way, the reader can relate with the main character from the get-go, and then discover his or her emerging powers as the character does.

What can you tell us about your main characters?

 Daniel Dark is the seventeen-year-old hero of the story. At first, he is no hero at all; he is laid-back, a bit surly, and with no particular goals other than smoking weed and hanging out with his friends. His dad is a local pastor. He and Daniel simply don’t get on. They barely speak to each other, or interact. But Daniel knows it’s because he is different; he just doesn’t know why. Then he is contacted by his real father – a master vampire called Dominus, who initiates a transformation within Daniel. Daniel’s vampire powers spring into being, and before he knows it he has left home on a perilous journey to confront his vampire father. Along the way, his powers manifest. But he discovers a lot more about himself as a person, about his truly important abilities – those that everybody has within them.

Keeping his vampire half a secret, he teams up with vampire hunter, Logan DuPris, a young woman with a sharp tongue and mean trigger finger. She wants to find Dominus just as much as Daniel does. But she has no idea about Daniel’s relationship to the master vampire – at first.

Did you have to do any research in order to help you with the writing of this book?

I travelled to Mexico in the mid 2000s and was inspired by its beauty and the way it different from the US and the UK. I explored the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan and heard many stories about witches, ghosts, and other supernatural beings who the locals swear are real and not imaginary. On my second trip there, I visited some caves, where local witches had left black candles, having used the cave as way of connecting to the ‘otherworld’. I had already hatched the idea for Blood Family by this time, and wanted my main character, seventeen-year-old Daniel Dark, to go on a journey that would reveal secrets about himself and his vampire origins. I love tales that take you to other countries. You travel to intriguing places, seeing them with the eyes of the characters. I knew Chiapas had supernatural depths to its culture, and felt compelled to incorporate those aspects into Blood Family.

After Daniel goes to Mexico he travels to Devon in England. Although I reside in the UK I had only beenClem from Dinner party to Devon once, and so made a special trip to basically walk in Daniel’s footsteps. I stayed in a creepy old Inn and explored the windswept plains of Dartmoor. After those few days, I had plenty of notes for those sections of the story, and a lot of new inspiration!

 

 What made you decide to become a writer?

Been writing since early teens. In my 40s now so…gulp…quite a long time! Always knew I wanted to be published, but never knew what a circuitous journey it would be. But, over the years, I had things accepted. First, a comic strip. Then a short story. Then, more short stories. And also a couple of things which I scripted for British television.

As to what made me decide to write, I think it was my love of stories and my desire to make my own, to make my own world and characters. I grew up in America and in the 6th or 7th grade we were given a short story to read in class – about a vampire, as it happened! I thought, ‘I can do this; it can’t be much more difficult than figuring out a comic strip’. I drew a lot of comic strips in those days. I wrote my first short story but it was more like a mini novel, with chapters. It was Sci-Fi, about telepathy – only about 20 pages long, but it was so satisfying. I knew then what I wanted to do.

What genre do you generally write, and why did you choose it?

I began by writing Sci Fi stories. Later on, I was asked by a friend in the movie business to write a supernatural/horror script with him. I wasn’t into that genre at all but the prospect of maybe getting a film made was too good to pass up. Anyway, I found I enjoyed writing this kind of story, and so later on wrote Blood Family. It was written as an adult book but my agent at the time suggested it was really YA and I should perhaps concentrate on YA. And that is exactly what I have done!

Are you interested in writing other genres?

I still love science fiction. That is where I started. So I may go back to that one day. But urban fantasy is much more accessible. Stories about vampires, werewolves, or magic are pretty much understood and embraced by everyone, whereas many shy away from Sci-Fi because of the technical aspects.

Oh, and I wrote a children’s adventure fantasy some years ago, which I had for sale under a different name. I may just resurrect that one day!

Do you follow a routine when you begin to write a scene or chapter?

Every novel I write is planned out meticulously in notes. I begin making that document months before any actual story writing. It is kind of like a scaffolding of the story, complete with photo reference and other references. Sometimes it is chapter by chapter. I write directly from that guide, but still leave a lot of room for spontaneity. So, I always have a fairly detailed knowledge of where I’m going, but often I surprise even myself with things that my characters end up doing or saying!

How long does it usually take for you to write a book?

Blood Family took a year because mainly because of the research. Other novels have taken anywhere from six months to nine months. It depends on a lot of factors, like what other crazy things are going on in my life! But I think six months is a good time factor; that is what I aim for.

Maz from the dinner partyWhat character out of your most recent work do you admire the most and why?

That’s an easy one! And it applies to all my stories. The character I admire the most and is my favorite is my main character, Daniel Dark. I think if an author isn’t totally into his protagonist, then why bother? He or she is who drives the story, pulls your reader along. It is the central character who is the story. For me, if I don’t make the main character the most interesting and most dynamic person within the tale, then I shouldn’t be writing it. And plus, all writers, I think, take an aspect of themselves and mould their hero out of that. It can be a part of you that the public sees, or never sees. Or a facet of your personality you would like to cultivate; the person you wish you were. Daniel has the dynamic, forthright, and impetuous qualities I wish I had sometimes. And he definitely has the drive and perseverance that definitely I know I have. Completing a novel certainly requires both!

Have you ever had second doubts about a story you’ve written? If so, have you wanted to rewrite some parts of it?

Quite often when I am planning a novel I create a structure that I eventually reject. If it doesn’t excite me enough or if it just doesn’t feel right, I scrap it and start again. Then it invariably comes together after that. I think you have to get a lot of old and clichéd ideas out of your system first; that’s the way it seems to work.  But then you can go ahead and write something fresh and exciting.

Are there any authors you admire?

I admire Tolkien for putting so much love and detail into his fantasy world; it showed that he real cared about it and wanted it to come across as a real place. And he does that through simple storytelling. I am also a fan of Science Fiction authors like Arthur C Clarke and Frank Herbert.

I do love The Hobbit, more so than The Lord of the Rings. Read it many times as a kid; it was one of the stories that was so vivid that it inspired me to write. I love The City and the Stars by Arthur C Clark and of course Dune by Frank Herbert. As for current YA novels, I have dove into both Hunger Games and I Am Number Four last year – they are great books!

Did you self-publish? If not, is that something you will be willing to consider in the future?

Although Blood Family was considered by Hodder & Stoughton publishing house I eventually decided to self-publish because I wanted to present the book my way. They liked the book a lot at H&S, but wanted to make the vampires more like normal vampires. And although my vampires have all the attributes of the creatures from popular culture, they originate in another dimension, possessing the bodies of willing hosts. I wanted to keep all of that intact.

What is your least favorite part about getting published?

My least favorite part? I enjoy all the aspects of creating and promoting a book, but the problem is that there are just not enough hours in the day to do as much as you’d like. Today, with social networking, you have to be blogging and tweeting and whatnot pretty much constantly. And really, as a writer, I should be writing!

The best part, though, is when people finally get to read it! The novel has been in your head for a long time, and has taken months to write. Finally, you get to hear other people’s reactions to it. Feedback for Blood Family has been extremely positive so far which is absolutely wonderful.

Was the road to publication a long one for you?

I wrote the book back in 2005. It took a while to attract an agent and then to do the rounds with various publishers. As stated before, it did almost become published with Hodder. I wrote several other novels after that, all Young Adult, before coming back to Blood Family and deciding to self-publish. Even then, it took many months of preparation – hiring an editor, formatter, cover artist, etc. But all well worth it!

Do you use a pen name? If so, why?

I have used pen names in the past mainly because I have written in different genres. I have written Sci-Fi, children’s, and now YA. I think one aspect of good branding is to associate oneself with one particular genre. Currently all I write is YA.

What is the best advice you can give to a new author?

I have been writing since I was in my very early teens. I started with short stories, and then tried my hands at novels. I was 16 when I tried my first novel – a Star Wars sequel! Gosh, it was terrible. I think, really, I wanted to make my own Star Wars movie; I couldn’t really do that at 16, but I could write one down. My mother urged me to write original stories, and told me of an author she had read an interview with, who gave the simple advice ‘don’t never give up!’. That deliberate double negative has stayed with me. If your first story isn’t published, or appreciated, it does not mean that it is no good. It means that you are still honing your talent. To be good at writing you have to write. But don’t just consider your early work mere practice. Everything you write is—or should be—a fun experience. If you love what you’re writing, your readers surely will, which is the best possible advice I could give.

Where can the readers find more information about you?mark knight book pic (3)

 My author site is www.markknightbooks.com. There is a link to my blog on there.

For more fun facts about Blood Family, you can visit its dedicated website, www.bloodfamily.co.uk. The sites are constantly evolving with new things added all the time. For instance, I soon plan to upload the timeline of events that I used while writing Blood Family to the Blood Family site. You will find sketches and other pieces of artwork by my cover artist, David M Rabbitte, on there as well.

Happy reading, folks – and if you would like to read an excerpt from Marks new book, you can find it here: ominously entitled

Chapter 13…

More from me on other topics soon, but you can follow me on

@Storytellerdeb

www.facebook.com/DebbieMartin.Author

or my website: www.debbiemartin.co.uk

Chapter 13
April 21, 2013

Excerpt from Blood Family: quest for the vampire key  – Mark Knight

mark knight book pic (3)CHAPTER 13

As evening painted the sky a deep purple, Daniel stepped through his front door and looked around. As his life had changed, so too had all that surrounded him. He was sensing something. Daniel had never been one for deep thinking, but now his perceptions stretched themselves out over the landscape, over time, feeling out new possibilities and new horizons. He exhaled a big, purging breath, scratching the back of his head. Was he really going to do it? Leave home?

The ‘incident’ with Daelin had left him confused. Part of him had wanted to take advantage of her in the most gruesome and bloodiest of ways. Part of him wanted to protect her forever. Would it be best for her—and for him—to stay, or to leave? This wasn’t exactly something he could talk over with the town’s youth counselor. For the first time in his life, he had no one to fall back on. Future decisions would be down to him and him alone.

No more of this soul-searching crap. I want my bed.

Entering, he kicked off his sneakers and thudded up the stairs. As he grabbed the door handle to his room he halted. Mom stood there, down the hall, looking…defenseless.

“Daniel…”

“Just a minute, Mom.” He wanted to change his shirt a.s.a.p.—his unbidden hallucination had made him very sweaty, not to mention the sex play with Daelin.

He entered his room.

That was his first mistake.

Dad was waiting for him—he and six other pastors. Not one appeared to be in a forgiving mood.

It was a shock to Daniel—he hadn’t even seen any cars parked out front, not even Dad’s.

He then made his second mistake. He didn’t move quickly enough.

Another pastor, who had been waiting next to the door, kicked it shut. Then, the tallest of the ministers facing him shot him with what looked to be a crossbow. The arrow tore into the boy’s left shoulder, pinning him to his bedroom door. He roared in pain. Before the roar was over, an arrow pierced his other shoulder.

“I know you hate me for this, Daniel,” said Nathan Dark. “But I’m doing this to help you.”

“Help me?” spat Daniel. “You want to kill me!”

“It’s taken me years to put together this Deliverance Team, Daniel,” Pastor Dark told him. “And unlike even my own church denomination, our newly founded division knows about the existence of creatures like you.”

Creatures like me?”

“Yes,” said Nathan coldly. “Demons—like you.”

The pastors rushed at Daniel as he grasped the arrow shafts, trying to pull himself free. The seven men began shouting out religious passages at him, fear knocking their phrases out of unison. Five of them restrained Daniel while two others (including his father) performed the laying on of hands, placing palms on his head and chest. Enraged, Daniel bellowed back at them, irises turning blood red as his would-be deliverers watched in increasing terror.

And something else was happening: the arrows that impaled Daniel were dissolving, actually turning to ash and smoke before their eyes. Through the tears in his son’s shirt Nathan Dark could see the arrow wounds healing before his eyes—flesh growing and knitting, liberated blood retreating back inside the boy’s body before the holes closed.

Revivified, Daniel flung his arms outward in a mighty push, hurling the men to the floor. The deliverers howled in pain.

Nathan Dark regained his senses. His son was nowhere in sight. Then, hearing a sound like the panting of a wounded wolf, he looked up. Daniel clung there, defying gravity, hugging the ceiling like a bat.  Nathan barked through gritted teeth to the crossbow-wielder, who hastily reloaded his weapon of choice. He was good—very good—and had no trouble in unleashing another duo of deadly carbon shafts into the boy’s body—one in the leg, and the other in his shoulder. The idea was to get so many of them stuck in the youth that he would weaken long enough for the team to overpower him.  In this case, ‘overpower’ would mean one of two things—either to free him of his curse, or to free him of his life.

Detaching from the ceiling, Daniel landed in the center of the pastors, now on their feet in a rough circle. He spun, elongated nails gashing each face in rapid succession. Blood sprayed in all directions. The deliverers reeled back in pain. But Nathan avoided injury, stepping back just long enough to retrieve from his jacket the object that he had secreted there as a last resort.

There had been accounts of wooden stakes actually working against demonics and undead entities, but Nathan had never verified any of these accounts. Sure, maybe it was just movie nonsense. But this, right here, right now, was real. He was going to put right this terrible wrong—this boy’s abominable existence—in God’s name. He would succeed no matter what, even if –

Daniel had locked his gaze on to his father. The stake dropped from his hand. Pastor Nathan Dark grabbed his head as though trying to keep it from falling off. The look of sheer terror in his face was proof enough that the hypnotic assault was working.  The other members of the deliverance team watched, transfixed.

“No!” Nathan was screaming. “Don’t leave me in this place! Get me out! Take me out of here!” He was no longer in this world, not consciously. Daniel had succeeded in making this devout Christian man believe that he was in Hell.

It had not been difficult for Daniel to target his father’s greatest fear. But he didn’t know how long he could keep up the illusion. This ability was new to him, powered by raw instinct.

Sensing the approach of the other ministers, Daniel whirled to confront them.

“Keep back!” he warned. “Unless you want me to invade your little minds as well!” His own words frightened him. Never before had he spoken words like that, nor with such rage. What had he become?

Pastor Nathan Dark screamed even louder. Even Daniel had no idea as to what his Dad was seeing within his mind’s eye.

“Daniel! Stop it, now!”

Mom!

Daniel was shocked to see that she’d entered. He released his father.

Jerking his head toward the window across the room, he barked at it as though giving an order. The windowpane shot up with a bang.

Daniel’s exit was a blur—a dark streak that could have been the boy taking flight. No one in the room would ever know.

He was gone.

 

 

 

14 ways to turn a true tale
April 9, 2013

Style is a tricky tale. It’s not the letters and words that count, it’s the way you put them together – a bit like size not mattering. What’s even more difficult is that appreciation of style is completely subjective – what one person likes another hates. The most important aspect of style is finding the one YOU like.

quillSomeone once told me never to compromise myself or my values as whilst someone might detest me for my principles and manner of delivering them, someone else will love me and it whilst the person who loves me will read avidly and delightedly whatever I write, no amount of persuasion will coerce the detester to read the detested.  So what useful tips are there to be passed on about finding YOUR style? Here’s a flighty fourteen that I can think of, but there will be many more if you regularly listen to other writers views on writing and styling, starting with possibly the most important:

  1. Be true to you – be authentic. No –one else is you, and no-one else will express themselves like you so be you and be proud of you, whatever your thoughts, ideas, use of language or tone. You are unique: revel in it.
  2. Don’t worry about going over the lines. When we were children we learned how to carefully colour inside the lines and follow the required rote in class. Individualism is all about throwing away the rule book and devising your own so don’t worry if you express yourself differently or unconventionally. It is that too, which makes your writing unique and fascinating.
  3. Give your ideas room to breathe. If you cramp yourself up in either thought or response, you can never let anything grow and develop. Be prepared to let your mind and imagination wander, examine new and unexpected possibilities, learn new skills and question old ways. Open your mind and your style will follow.
  4. Say it aloud. When you read something aloud you have to out in the breathing spaces and intonation. If it doesn’t flow, make sense or has little impact, reading aloud will highlight the defects very quickly indeed.
  5. Tread the hire wire without a net. If you want to be fresh and inspirational, you have to be prepared to go out on a limb, examine ideas or concepts you may be uncomfortable with yourself, experiment with styles and words and content you might otherwise fight shy of. Don’t. Embrace a challenge and ‘blow the ****** doors off’!
  6. How do I ‘sound’? It isn’t only what you say it’s how you say it, so say it in a way that is both easy for you to express and for a reader to read. Your tone is as important as your content and style. If you moralise, you will potentially antagonise. If you judge, you will potentially alienate and if you don’t approach the issue with equilibrium, you will miss valuable aspects and opportunities to engage your readers.
  7. pen and bookDon’t worry if you aren’t the first. Plagiarism is word theft, but our ideas are nevertheless all the aggregates of every book we’ve read, film we’ve seen, discussion we’ve had or experience we’ve shared. Don’t be afraid to use these influences to bring your writing and your ideas to life because the take you have on it will be yours alone, and therefore, no matter how many times it may have been considered before, your treatment of it will be brand new.
  8. Write every day. Practice makes perfect, and more writing will encourage more writing – simples.
  9. Believe in yourself, because in order to write you MUST. You are the centre of your writing universe and in order to engage your readers, they have to believe that is so too.
  10. Don’t drivel – know what you mean and your reader will too. If you’re not clear on anything, research it until you are. Your reader needs to respect you and your information must be accurate.
  11. Study yourself know who you are so you can express yourself openly, honestly and with clarity. If you don’t know your own mind, no-one else will either.
  12. Write with passion. Become an artistic beast, not a domestic pet and express yourself freely. Don’t be prim, or proper, be bold and bad – readers want to read something inspiring and riveting- grab them, hold them and take them with you.
  13. Know your own values – much like knowing yourself, but values are the outward demonstration of your inner beliefs and they need to be apparent in your writing for your voice to be authentic and your writing to be credible. Take some time examining your belief systems and values so you know what it is you are subconsciously or consciously interpreting through your writing.
  14. 14.   Don’t follow the crowd – be unpredictable. You are, after all, aren’t you? You’re a writer …chinese writing

And if you want to try a bit of fun, see which writer you write most like here:

http://iwl.me/

and check out another useful blog/handout here (if you ignore the Americanisms):

http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/style/

Follow me on Twitter: @Storytellerdeb

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DebbieMartin.Author

Website: http://www.debbiemartin.co.uk

 

Finding a style
April 9, 2013

Writing style:

What is it? Is it genre-specific – a certain format that stamps the writers presence on their prose? Is it content specific – dependent on what you are writing about? Or is it all down to intent? An underlying principle that delivers a specific impact aside from the words it is conveyed through.

Probably all of these- and more. Style is a writer’s personal signature created through their collection and use of words. It seems easy, when we refer to a writer’s style, to assume that as soon as anyone starts writing, they immediately adopt their personal style and that’s it.

Child writing Of course it’s hardly that simple. Personal style is something that develops over a period of time- like the way children grow. The five year old shows only the tantalising whisp of the promise of the adult they will become. Professor Winston, in his documentary series of ‘7 up’, ‘14 up’ and so on tried to demonstrate how the adult-to-be was clearly present in the child, and in as much as he could indicate certain traits in  them, but it was very much down to the experiences they had and the opportunities that came their way that shaped their future. It’s the old nature/nurture argument. We have latent abilities  but we have to do something with them to develop them into skills, so writing style doesn’t automatically flow from the first piece of prose we write, it grows from practice and experimentation.

How to?

Trial and error, experimentation and repetition, and wide reading help, but in the end it will be down to time, volume and feedback that will ultimately develop the style you stick with – how you feel about it, how well it delivers the message you want to give, and whether your readers get that same satisfaction and understanding from reading it in that format. That is where writing exercises and prompts and subsequent feedback and critique has most value.

To play around with possible forms, look at a variety of writing styles amongst well-known authors – the flowing-thought style of Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar , the densely descriptive and somewhat turgid style of Hilary Mantel (Bring up the Bodies), the pacy style of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine (most recent – The Child’s Child)  or the almost conversational style of Julian Barnes (The Sense of an Ending). These are just a few ideas – pick a favourite author, or a new one you’ve not read before – or one that is a current award winner – of the Costa etc. Now, try out writing in their style and see how it fits with you. Take any piece of prose – it can just be taken from a newspaper article, if you like, and write it in the style you’ve chosen.  How does it fit with you? Are you happy writing in that style? How have you instinctively modified it? Do you like reading that style of prose?

writing 4

 

writing 3

 

writing 2

 

 

 

 

 

Now turn it around and take a section from one of their books and try paraphrasing it into your words. What comes out the other end? It will almost invariably be the style you instinctively slip into and that will form a basis for how you style your future writing, although you may adopt several styles depending on the work you are doing at the time. For instance essays and academic articles will almost certainly have a more literary and formal style, magazine articles more conversational and fiction may have any style you like to adopt as long as it melds with the genre you are writing in. After that, it is a case of write, write, and write, and you will hone your style more and more; and invite feedback and positive criticism whenever you can.

Do not take criticism personally; take it as a means to improvement, after all, the most successful style – however it is formed – is the one a reader wants to read.

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