Literary Style in Storytelling


I thought I would re-blog this informative post, it is a nice follow up to my previous post, Masterful Writing Techniques. Literary Style in Storytelling Posted by Melissa Donovan on December 13, 2016


What’s your literary style?

Today’s post includes excerpts from What’s the Story? Building Blocks for Fiction Writing, chapter five:

“Narrative Style, Voice, and Tone.” Enjoy! Literary style is the aesthetic quality of a work of literature—the distinct voice that makes each author unique. It’s the way we string words together, the rhythm of our prose, the catchphrases that pepper our language.

Literary style includes every element of writing in which an author can make stylistic choices from syntax and grammar to character and plot development.

Seasoned writers have cultivated a style of writing that can be identified by a snippet of prose alone. For example, a common English literature test gives you excerpts from several authors whose works you’ve studied. The challenge is to identify the author who wrote each excerpt—not because you’ve memorized each author’s repertoire but to show that you can identify each author by his or her voice.

Style can be contained in a single work, such as a novel, or it can be observed across an author’s entire body of work. One author’s style might be spartan—minimalist in nature—while another author’s style is rich with vibrant language. An author can also exhibit a range of styles, adjusting the aesthetics for each project, depending on what works best for each piece.

Understanding Literary Style

Style is comprised of many components. However, it is not any one component; nor is it all of these components together. Each author (or work) uses a unique combination of components to render a style. Among these components are personality, tone, diction, syntax, grammar, and content.

Authors also make stylistic choices with grammar and punctuation. Cormac McCarthy is one such author who is known for his omission of punctuation marks. Most notably, he didn’t use quotation marks for dialogue in his novel The Road. Nor did he use italics or any other punctuation marks or formatting to mark the dialogue. Dialogue was indicated within the context of the work.

Some authors are known for a style that resonates from the content or the substance of their works. These authors may always write about a particular type of character or topic. For example, one author might write stories that tackle social issues while another writes stories set in hospitals.

Style can also be expressed through structure. Some authors tell stories out of chronological order. Others may consistently use framing devices. Or maybe they’re known for including flashbacks throughout their stories.

It’s not unusual for young and new writers to ignore style. A fledgling storyteller often focuses on more concrete aspects of story, such as plot, character, and setting, along with other key elements like action, dialogue, and description. However, style is an important consideration, especially in literary fiction. In fact, style is one of the defining features of literary fiction, which is renowned for paying homage to the artistry of wordcraft. Some may even argue that the styling of prose and an author’s voice are more important than the crafting of story in literary fiction.

Mastering Literary Style

Style, voice, and tone work together to give an author’s work its unique flavor. Readers often form preferences for stories with a particular stylistic quality and tonality. Some readers don’t like dark stories and will only read stories with a light and casual vibe. Some may prefer fast-paced stories that are focused on action and dialogue, while others like to explore the details of a story world with vivid description and exposition. There are readers who like texts packed with long, fancy words and readers who prefer to skim the text rather than check the dictionary every few paragraphs (or pages).

Many readers may not even be aware of their own stylistic preferences. They’ll scan the first few paragraphs and find something they like about the narrative voice (or something they don’t like), which informs their decision to buy and read the book, which is why literary style is an important element of storytelling.

Want to learn more about literary style? Pick up a copy of What’s the Story? Building Blocks for Fiction Writing.

Benefits of Reading: Revisited — charles french words reading and writing

This post is especially important during holidays, but all year long too. Professor of Literature, Charles F. French,  speaks to the importance of reading. Reading has a plethora of wonderful benefits emotionally and great for brain power too. Read some of them here. K.D. Dowdall

( I believe this topic to be important, so I wish to revisit it again. I have previously written about the happiness of reading, a pleasure I hope everyone, or at least, most people experience. As I wrote before, I consider reading to be one of the main joys of life. Reading is one of […]

via Benefits of Reading: Revisited — charles french words reading and writing

Techniques for Masterful Writing

A Summary of K.M. Weiland’s  “Write Like a Master”

I posted this in 2014 and I realized it was definitely worth posting again! I keep coming back to K.M.’s 10 factors that are simple to remember and key elements in any writing, be it fiction or non-fiction.

My summary of K.M. Weiland’s excellent article presented in Writer’s Digest, Work Book: Exercises and Tips for Honing Specific Aspects of Your Writing presents the key points of her exceptional article. It is especially for writers penning their first novel, but also for seasoned writers to again remember a classic, Jane Eyre, a novel that was ahead of its time, by Charlotte Brontë.  Often, reading classics, as most of us do, gives us fresh insight to dramatic storytelling par excellence, and can improve our own writing skills. K.M. Weiland gives us 10 distinct techniques for dramatic masterful writing.

  1. Hook: Start in the middle of some type of interaction within environment, statement, or internal angst to provoke reader curiosity.
  1. Characteristic Moment: Reveal/show a personality trait of the Protagonist.
  1. Setting Description of Scene: Start broadly, and then zoom in.
  1. Symbolism: Small details set story’s tone and foreshadows its course.
  1. The World Protagonist Inhabits: demonstrate character’s interior and exterior world.
  1. Back Story: Intersperse with dialogue, don’t dump back story in long paragraphs in chapter 1.
  1. The Premise of Story: Present the Dramatic Question early on, involving the moral foundation, the impetus that drives the story forward.
  1. Physical Actions: The physical movements of characters interspersed throughout dialogue increases depth of character traits.
  1. Protagonist’s Belief: Once Dramatic Question is identified, writer presents obstacles for protagonist until she/he can relinquish belief/misconception and meet deepest needs.

10.Extraordinary Factor: What makes the Protagonist important? How at odds is protagonist in his/her world with others that creates friction, tension, and thus the central conflict of story premise.

***see Writer’s Digest, October 2014 edition, for full article.


Teargassing of families and children–the stuff of fascism.

No Man is an Island and that includes President Trump.

charles french words reading and writing

The Trump administration has ordered and defended the use of tear gas against families, against mothers, against children, and against babies. This is beyond reprehensible–it is evil, and it is the stuff of fascism, racism, and bigotry.

We must never become used to such abominable behavior. All of those who oppose these actions must speak out.

This must end.

Remember that we are all connected.

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee”

John Donne

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4 Steps to a Fabulous Finished First Draft









4 Steps to a Fabulous Finished First Draft Posted by Our Special Guest | Nov 7, 2018 | Life by Signe Pike

“I’m working on a book.”

If you’ve uttered this sentence, you’re most likely acquainted with the particular horrors of trying to complete a first draft. Many unforeseen issues rear up to challenge a writer in this fragile but entirely crucial stage. Without a solid first draft, there’s nothing to revise, submit, and publish.

As a former book editor turned author, I’ve witnessed war stories from both sides of the desk. But when it came time to write my first historical novel, The Lost Queen, I found myself up against the beastly first-draft problem in a new and very personal way.

Here’s what worked for me, with hopes it may also work for you.

  1. Create a room of your own

Whether it’s a coffee shop, a designated office, a cleared-out closet or even a simple privacy screen that separates your own space, just as you eat at your kitchen table or workout at the gym, having a designated writing space is hugely important to the creation of a habit. You need to establish a routine.

As you regularly sit and settle into your space, you’ll find it’s easier to “plug in,” picking up where you left off in your project time and time again.

2. Schedule your time

Make a commitment to touch the keys or put your pen to paper every day. This helps keep your mind trained on your book and of course also helps you hit your word count (more on that below).

Schedule and protect your writing time like a dragon guards its treasure.

You may have to wake up early or stay up late, but when you’re committed to completing a book, you must protect your time. This part can be truly challenging. Depending on the demands of your life, it might even seem darn near impossible. But if you don’t do this, you run the danger of languishing forever in a state of first draft purgatory. The only remedy for this malady is (grudgingly) referred to by authors as “Butt in Chair.”

3. Commit to a word count

In Stephen King’s book On Writing, he recommends writers try to type 2,000 words a day. I make that my goal. I track my progress in a word document detailing the date, the word count I’m beginning with, and the word count I finish with. At the end of the writing session, I do the math and also record how many pages I have in total. Some days I only manage 100 words. But when I write daily and track my progress, I see that I am indeed progressing. I see I’m building a book.

  1. Silence your inner critic

For most writers, there is a particularly useless voice that rises up from the depths of their inner gloom, pain or insecurities. Nothing this evil voice has to say is going to help complete a first draft. In fact, the inner critic would be quite happy if you never finished the manuscript at all, because then you wouldn’t run the risk of failure.

After all, So-and-So is a far better writer. Besides, you don’t even know where your story is going. Writing isn’t going to pay your bills. Especially not if you use those stupid words–you call that a sentence?

STOP. Recognize the voice of your inner critic as it surfaces. Your job in constructing a first draft is to let the writing flow. If a sentence comes to mind, listen and write it down.

This is the time for freedom and flow.

Reassure yourself that there is a time to write and a time to revise. You will have plenty of time to amend, improve, and polish. In the meantime, use these four steps to get the blasted thing on paper.

What held you (or is holding you) back at the first-draft stage? On Facebook, share your challenges and the strategies that work best for you.

Signe Pike at Career Authors

Signe Pike was an acquisitions editor at Random House and Penguin before publishing the travel memoir Faery Tale. Her newest book, The Lost Queenwas optioned for television and is a Barnes & Noble “Discover New Writers Pick” for Fall 2018. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.