How to Improve Your Writing Style
Guest Post by Marlene Bateman
Author of; For Sale by Owner
There are many elements of good writing but perhaps one of the least understood is style. What is style? Style is not what you write but how you write. Voltaire said, “Every style that is not boring is a good one.” But how do you improve something as nebulous as style? Over time, I’ve come up with some simple things that can enhance your writing style.
- The smaller the number of words you use to contain a thought or an image, the more impact it will have. Let me give you an example: “Lee was a mean woman.” Or, “Lee was a shrew.” Another example; “He passed away early in the morning, and people all over America cried.” Or; “He died at dawn and the nation wept.” Do not put extra words in a sentence for the same reason you don’t tape two windshield wipers to the windshield of your car: they wouldn’t serve any purpose, and they would get in the way.
- Be wary of adverbs. Adverbs only crop up when you use a weak verb and need to boost it.
- Use strong verbs that are active, vivid, specific and familiar. One example of this is; Buster ate his dog treats quickly. It’s much better to say; Buster gobbled his dog treats. Don’t use weak general verbs like walk, cry, fall, and touch if the situation calls for plod, weep, collapse, and caress.
- Make tension fuel your plot. Without tension, there is no plot. Remember, whenever the protagonist’s intention is denied, the effect is tension.
- Create tension through opposition. The role of the antagonist is to thwart the intention of the protagonist.
- Make tension grow as opposition increases. It’s a chain of cause and effect, which builds and produces conflict and tension, which you need to keep the story going. Every time something happens, the stakes grow larger and the actions snowball.
- Make change the point of your story. We expect events to affect the main character in such a way that they force a change in his personality. Your main character should be a different person at the end of the book than he is at the beginning.
- When something happens, make sure it’s important. Plot is your compass. You’ve got a general idea of the direction you’re headed. If you write something that is specifically related to the advancement of the plot, keep it. If not, chuck it.
- Make the causal look casual. Everything in your writing has a reason, a cause that leads to an effect, which in turn becomes the next cause. For example; If a shotgun is necessary, show it casually—in a way that the reader almost doesn’t notice. Then later, when a gun is called for, readers will remember seeing one earlier.
- Make sure your lead character performs the central action of the climax. Keep the main character on center stage with the action. Your main character should act, not be acted upon.
- Show, don’t tell. Showing means creating a picture for the reader. You can say a person seemed impatient. Or you can show that by saying, “She looked at her watch constantly.” Or have her ask, “Are you almost done?”
- Avoid clichés. They’re tiresome.
- Appeal to the senses. Bring your writing alive with the sounds, the smells, the flavors, and the peculiar tactile sensations that come from textures and temperature and motion. Remind the reader that the world sparkles, roars, and sometimes it stinks. The senses are touchstones for the reader. Don’t say it was noisy at the baseball game. Mention the crack of a bat, the whizzing of a fast ball, the roar of the crowd, and the heckling from the bleachers.
- Put emphatic words at the end. Emphasis tends to flow to the end of a sentence, so if there is one word or phrase you want to say a little louder, put it at the end. This is especially important when you are trying to be funny.
- Keep it simple. Write in a simple, direct, unpretentious way—with every sentence an arrow aimed at exactly what it means to say. Remember you are trying to do one thing; tell a story.
Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and grew up in Sandy, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor’s degree in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they live in North Salt Lake, Utah with their two dogs and four cats. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and wrote the best-selling romance/suspense novel, Light on Fire Island. She has written three other mysteries; Motive for Murder, A Death in the Family, and Crooked House. You can find Marlene on her website.
Marlene has also written a number of LDS, non-fiction books: Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s from Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys,Heroes of Faith, Gaze into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, and The Magnificent World of Spirits; Eyewitness Accounts of Where We Go When We Die.
Stressed by a year of intense, ongoing problems, McKenzie Forsberg decides to quit her high-powered job and move back to her hometown. Determined to rebuild her life, Kenzie desperately needs the peace and security she is sure will come from buying the home she grew up in. But when she arrives in town, Kenzie discovers that a handsome widower, Jared Rawlins, has already put an offer on the house. However, he can only close the deal if he sells his own house by Christmas Eve.
When Kenzie unexpectedly runs into a couple who are considering buying Jared’s house, she unthinkingly gives them information that changes their mind. Jared, who had been more than a little interested in Kenzie, has second thoughts when he begins to believe Kenzie deliberately tried to sabotage the sale of his home.
Despite his misgivings, and Kenzie’s own concerns, sparks of attraction between Jared and Kenzie grow into something more. Then, Kenzie makes a stunning discovery about her past. In that moment, everything changes. Will the power of love be enough to bring Jared and Kenzie together and allow them to find their happily ever after?
Felicia NOTE: Thank you Marlene for stopping by! Great Tips! It was fascinating to see the other side of the coin.
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