Quality of Style


Style is the way in which a writer uses words and other devices right there on the page in front of the reader.

Whereas Ideas, Characters, Attractive Power, Emotional Commitment and even Plot could be described conceptually to some degree apart from the story itself, style is the story itself: it’s what we end up with once all the planning and structure and background development have been done. As this is the aspect of fiction most clearly seen by the reader, and the one in which he or she has the most direct contact, this is the thing upon which the quality of a piece of work is most often judged.

The following questions should help to break this down a little for you.

1. Is your writing style of sufficient quality?

That depends of course on what is meant by the term ‘sufficient’. Style can exist for its own sake. A writer can write in whatever way he or she chooses - poetically, straight-forwardly, mechanistically, aesthetically and any combination of methods. Writers often concentrate on style in order to try to develop a distinctive ‘voice’ so that they will stand out from the crowd.

But is the resulting style attractive to readers? Or does it disinterest or even repel them?

Word by word, sentence by sentence, a writer builds up a body of work. To attract readers, that work must possess certain rhythms and patterns. Without them, while it may read well as an isolated piece of writing, it will not move readers forward or have an emotional effect overall.

2. Do you monitor the quality of your writing in some way?

How is this measured?

It’s relatively easy to see the other mechanisms at work in fiction: the way plots are structured or characters developed, and so forth. Style can be a very subtle thing: its close examination has given rise to almost every school of literary criticism that exists. And yet there are some simple mechanisms that enable anyone interested to forensically inspect what is going on on the page with almost any writer.