Reading & Writing Style

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and reading and style. A writing style isn’t just the author’s way of wording sentences, it’s the words they use and what they write about, how they structure a sentence, a paragraph, a page, a chapter, the entire book. It’s what makes their work unique. And I’ve noticed how my own style had changed and adapted with every page, chapter, book I read of another author’s work. Even in small amounts, sometimes barely at all.

When you’re a creative person, you have to refill the creative well by taking in any form of media. For a writer, any type of storytelling (film, television), most especially reading, is most important. You can’t be a writer unless you’re a reader. You have to learn the words and know them in order to write, you need to see what works and what doesn’t. One of the largest parts of being a writer is being a reader, reading anything you can get your hands on. By reading, you absorb talent. No really. That’s what it is. You’re learning how to write. If you want to be able to write as good as the author’s you admire, you have to read their work. You have to read what they read. And then you have to read even more than that.

While reading certain books and stories, my writing changes, often for the better. I can feel the improvement after reading something I loved and admired in my own work. I noticed once, while reading my favorite author’s (Victoria Schwab) book A Darker Shade of Magic, my own writing was reflecting hers. Notably, I started to use the word “bones” in my writing more frequently. She uses the word often—not too much or in a negative way, just often enough to notice—and I realized I started to do the same. She uses the word not just to describe literal human or animal bones, but describing ships and emotion and in the name of a tavern.

     “No eyes watched her cross the deck. None saw her descend the steep set of steps that ran into the ship’s bones and bowels.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, page 65

     “His skin, his muscle, his very bones…everything ached in a steady, horrible way, as if he were nothing but a bruise.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, page 186

     “Lila was used to hunger, but the stone left her feeling starved in a bone-deep way. Hollow.”

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, page 274

While writing, I’d never used the word bone often, if at all, except for a single scene involving a broken one. Her use of it makes the writing connect more to the character, going deeper—literally—in a way that makes it richer, more full, instead of just referring to the surface, the surroundings, in both a literal and figurative sense. Schwab also uses the word “blood” an incredible number of times in the same book.

Her sentences are always fluid, they have a poetic rhythm to them, and whenever I read something of hers, I write in a similar way. This isn’t just for her work either, it’s any time I read something. For instance, while reading one of my favorite young adult series, The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater—who writes just as beautifully and poetically through a modern teenage perspective—even my dialogue improved to a point where I found myself impressed by a line I wrote. She has a way of creating dialogue that feels real and not forced like some dialogue can feel. She slips in humor and wit seamlessly in conversations that keep even general day-to-day conversations exciting an interesting to read.

     “Well,” Persephone corrected, “that is not quite true. Maura told me Neeve approached her first. Neeve said she might be able to find him.”
“Out of the blue?” Calla asked.
“I’d prefer if you didn’t use that expression,” Blue said.
“Out of nowhere?” Calla repeated.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, page 323

Now, the difference in my writing while reading certain books or writers and when I’m not isn’t significant. It’s a subconscious absorption of their style and addition to my own. Most of the time it’s slight, barely noticeable—there isn’t some parts of my work that is more like one author’s style than other parts. It becomes one with my own style, blending in seamlessly in all parts of the process. And over time, growing as a writer, it will continue to change, little by little, until I have a style that is uniquely mine. The more I read, the better my writing becomes. The more I write, the better my writing becomes.

It’s all a part of the process.

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