Once Upon a Time….



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

· https://www.writingforward.com/storytelling/literary-style-in-storytelling

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.

15 thoughts on “Literary Style in Storytelling

  1. Jennie says:

    Thank you for posting this again, Karen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jennie, thank you and I am so glad that you like it and I do too. Karen D. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jennie says:

        You are welcome, Karen. 🙂


  2. I think it is natural for newbies to focus on elements of story over Literary ones because just trying to learn to control the prose is pretty mentally consuming. However I also believe that the more reading one does, the more likely Literary styles imprint themselves on the subconscious, at times providing a nice template from which to launch those brand new stories…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. KC…you are so brilliant! I always learn so much from you! I am so fortunate to know you and be a friend. Karen D. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Likewise, K.D…. the feeling is mutual!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. KC, Thank you!! Karen 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Anony Mole says:

    London + Heinlein + Steinbeck — or at least that’s my goal.


    1. I think your goal is admirable! Often times when we believe in what we are capable of doing…it often comes true because we strive for it. Karen 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Anony Mole says:

        Yes, “Be who you want to become” was a oft posed mantra of a friend of mine, some years past. The other, fake it ’till you make it also comes to mind.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Anony…you are a marvel of information. I had completely forgotten these two important mantras from the past…my past too. I think they still hold relevance even today. Karen 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Powerful and very apt. I had an encounter with story telling sometime back and this is what I inferred https://sunniesmybunnies.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/storytelling/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your storytelling post. Storytelling is one of the most creative and important ways of helping children learn about the importance of reading and writing. That is what writers do, they tell stories that often create a desire to write and to read. Karen 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for this insight Karen 🌼

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My pleasure and I am now following you! Karen 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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