Butting Heads With A Different Writing Style

I picked up this book mostly for the way it’s written, with vivid language and a jaunty almost staccato cadence that could leave you breathless just skimming through it. This writer has a way with words. And as I read, I thought—this must be the new way of writing. The way I write would be stodgy compared to it because I’m of the old school. My reading list has many classics in it, which probably influence how I write.

I try to follow the old ”rules” (or, simply, the conventional “do’s” and “don’ts”) such as those contained in Francine Prose’s Reading like a Writer. Also, generally accepted conventions that everyone who writes fiction tries to follow—like using quotation marks for dialogue, which this book blithely ignores. Did I just miss out on changes that have been made to these rules?

Reading this novel is like meeting someone cocky, who knows what he’s capable of and would follow as much of his own rules as he could get away with.

I fancy myself charitable and fair so I also thought:
• This might be a genre-specific style, perhaps, the Young Adult or New Adult genres, with which, I confess I’m not familiar.
• This style mirrors modern life with its inundation of stimuli from the technological contraptions that rule our times. And, of course, that modern “stranglehold” is strongest on the young, hip generation. This writer has successfully transposed that stranglehold into his writing style.

But for me, that style is where I parted company with this writer. It just goes to show you how personal and individual our preferences and ways of being are. I got lost in the inundation, got exhausted by so much detail, found myself trying to break up long paragraphs and long sentences which contain many phrases that relate to each other only because they describe actions/events happening in the same space-time dimensions. (If I remember, from ages ago, Hemingway might have done something like this. We do have shorter attention spans now.)

I found myself looking for refuge in a character or an event whose trajectory I could follow, without being mired in details. Details are critical. They help define characters, give flavor and atmosphere to settings, and situate scenes. Sometimes, the details are what can draw a reader in. But too much of them and one could lose her place and interest in the story. Or, skip paragraphs to find the meaty parts, but only if she has seen the promise of an intriguing story or character early enough in the novel.

I realized this: Writing conventions are important, less for the writer than for the reader. They’re there so I, the reader, could follow the story as effortlessly as possible. I don’t want to have to work too much to understand characters or get plotlines and their underlying themes. Maybe Ms. Prose ought to write another book called Writing Like A Reader.

But, then, again, readers come in all shapes, sizes and persuasions. This may be your cup of tea. It’s not mine.

Right now, I’m unable to continue reading this story. Maybe, I’ll go back to it. It’s not unusual for me to take breaks. I took a couple of months off from Shadow of the Wind, for instance, but I didn’t shelve the book. I left it on my table, because something about it intrigued me. I was glad I picked it up again. It’s one of my current favorites.


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