The Ditchwalk Book Club is reading and discussing Rust Hills’ seminal work, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular. Announcement here. Overview here. Tag here.
Style can be thought of in two ways: as an aspect of fiction and as a technique. When I talk about style as an aspect of fiction I tend to use the word voice — which Hills recognizes as synonymous in that context:
To some extent, obviously, theme and tone and style — as well as “voice” and “vision” and “world view” and so on — all overlap one another so much in meaning that they can be thought of as all meaning pretty much the same thing.
Voice (style) to me is inherent. To speak of Hemingway’s voice or Fitzgerald’s is to speak of the way they wrote apart from what they wrote; their distinctive use of language and phrasing. Voice in that sense passively reveals something of the author, in the same way that a person’s accent or speaking cadence may affect how you perceive them no matter what they are talking about.
I don’t think authors should try to manage or shape their voice. I think it should evolve organically as a writer learns to tell stories. There is always some mimicry in any author’s early writing — an inevitable influence either by passive preference or intentional emulation — but over time such affectations tend to fade. Writers establish a voice not in the way retailers establish a brand, but in the way friends establish trust. Voice (style) is organic in that sense, and I think it should be. [ Read more ]