This week I’ve started a creative writing class through Wesleyan University called The Craft of Style. It’s part of a set of writing courses for people who are planning to participate in NaNoWriMo in November. In case you don’t know what this means, the abbreviation stands for National Novel Writing Month where those of us who are of the writing persuasion try to complete the first draft of a 50,000 word novel during the month. Anyway, back to my course. I thought for the next few weeks I would write about what I’m learning and provide excerpts from my writing assignments so I can accomplish some “practicing in public” time.
First up is style. Scribophile.com defines style like this. “Style is like a fingerprint, no two are alike. A function of diction, syntax, and voice, style tends to emerge from how you write rather than from a concerted effort to control it.” This is where I’ve always confused style with some of the other elements of writing. How can style be taught? Isn’t style just our own way of writing?
The answer to that is yes…and no. Notice the definition includes “diction, syntax, and voice.” I believe that is what makes style similar to setting, and it also explains how they’re both interrelated with description. The professor is using description to teach us about style, and it’s been fascinating so far. I’ve learned about taking a piece of writing and making it more vivid by the words I’ve used. I’ve also learned that making scenes clear and vivid are the underpinnings to having a great story. I rewrote something I had written a few months as part of an assignment using what I had learned and was intrigued by how different it sounded when I read it.
I know I have a lot more to learn about style and the other elements of writing, but, for now, here is my latest piece of writing for you to peruse.
Kathleen Whitaker and her daughter Olivia looked up and around in fascination, barely noticing that their limousine had driven away. There was the red and black pagoda featuring the poster of the movie Kathleen had come to review. The building appeared as traditionally Chinese as the buildings she had seen in Beijing two years ago. She could sense the history oozing out of the building and into her pores. Looking up as she walked forward and studied the building, Kathleen didn’t see the person in front of her until it was too late. Oof! Crash! It was one of the waiters carrying a tray of cocktails. Kathleen helped him steady the tray. “So sorry, sir.”
He didn’t reply and walked off. She was almost sure she could hear him saying, ‘Tourist yokels,’ under his breath. She thought of replying that she was most certainly not, but then realized she had been acting like a tourist yokel. It was time to focus. She turned to her daughter who was wearing a gown identical to hers except Olivia’s was royal blue, and hers was midnight black. “So Livy, what do you think of your old mom now?” She motioned to the crowd and historic buildings around them. “Do you like it?”
Olivia was bouncing with excitement. “Mama, this is so fancy.” Her eyes widened at the sight of the red carpet. “Do we really get to walk on it?” Her mother nodded glad to see her so excited. They followed the crowd of reporters there for the premiere into the theater. Everyone oohed and ahhed at the gift shop, the concession stand, and finally, the elegant staircase and escalator leading to the theater itself. It was all so beautiful. She could hardly believe she had been asked to come to such an elegant place. Now, to see if the movie was as good as the theater it was being shown in.
Have a great day, everyone!