Mar 5, 2012

How important is a writing style

For sure, writing an essay or dissertation is different from writing that is bouncy and playful and you know immediately when you start to read that you are reading a story, or a poem, or some lighthearted banter rather than a serious dissertation. Writing in the right style is therefore important as there is nothing more irritating for readers who want to read something from their favorite writers in a certain style to find that they are reading something stiff and boring. When people return to blogs of favorite writers it means that they are in the mood for a particular writing style, for example, some Rushdie prose or some Faulkner seriousness, or whatever other style.

Novels, sagas, historical fiction, mysteries

Recognizing the style of a particular writer is the same as stepping into a house and hearing a piece of music whose title you don’t know, but just recognize in some part of you. And so too you recognize your favorite writer’s writing because of its warm style and familiarity. You know the ‘voice’ of the writer, you recognize the style, and you know what to expect. In Gabriele Rico’ book Natural Writing he examines the writing styles of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Gertrude Stein, which showed a masterful piece of Hemingway writing that used the word ‘yes’ as a period. Faulkner’s piece was heavy and dark. Stein’s work was stream of consciousness writing. Many times when we purchase a book we are not even aware that we take the writing style of the writer into account rather than the topic of the book.

A writer’s signature

A writing style is a writer’s signature, and book titles are cleverly worded to appeal to readers who are hooked on mysteries, sagas, historical fiction, novels and the like. When you become used to a certain style of writing, and like it, you want more. You don’t easily go from a Salman Rushdie reader to a writing style which resembles Agatha Christie’s. We buy books by certain writers because the voice of the writer resonates with us and we know the mind of the writer and the kind of conflict and ending we can expect.

Valuable advice for writing a script

A young filmmaker just left my house. He had a rough script that had NFVF backing, he had a good story, and he did not know where to start. He was sent to me to make sense of the script he was and to start fresh. This is a big job for someone without experience to pull off. But it can be done. Young filmmakers are always anxious to get the script, but it takes hard work before you can do that. The following will help you do things in the right order.

·                    Synopsis: A one-page outline of your story; its characters, the plot of the story, and what the action is. No plot equals no story. Something has to happen, there is conflict, you try to resolve the conflict, have things going wrong, you reach a crisis, resolve the crisis, and resolution. This synopsis tells the people backing the story whether they are interested in making your vision a reality.

·                    Letter of motivation: Why should they back your story? 

·                    Character Bible: Make as many notes as you can about your characters. Flesh them out. Develop each character and do a character bible of each one. A good sample goes something like this; Samantha, 20s, bubbly, talkative, likes the color red, has a twitching eye, or something like that. We want to know the inner character, and this kind of information is better than just listing a name and age of the person.

·                    Outline/Treatment: What your story is about, and a step by step outline of how the story will progress. The script will be very close to the outline.

·                    Wants and needs of your characters. This is where you state what the character wants, and what the character needs to do to overcome the problem. In most cases the need to do of the character is psychological or emotional. In other words, the character has to be prepared to do something to satisfy the want. An example: the character wants to sing on stage. The father does not want her to sing in public (the inciting incident). The character needs to rise above disappointing her father to be able to sing. This is the conflict and the heart of the story.

If you have done a good job with the outline and/or treatment, you then come to the good stuff where you can finally start the script. Crossroads, my next film, starts out with the sound of running feet, and when the screen opens, sees a young drug dealer being chased across the field. The story starts out with a bang. I am trying to rope in the viewer in the first minutes of the film – very much like a writer who does this with a narrative hook when writing a book, meaning, grabbing the viewer’s attention and not letting go until the story is told. Be prepared that you will make many, many revisions of the script along the way.