It’s only words….

Over the last six months or more, I have noticed that my writing style has changed quite considerably, very much for the better I think. My first fumblings in storytelling  definitely used more words than was absolutely necessary, and not a few people advised me to cut down on the overuse of descriptive passages – the metamorphosis of my writing style has followed these suggestions for the most part and is now a slenderer iteration of those first stories.

However, I have also been pondering this in a little depth. As with any form of art, there are those who lean toward realist detail so they can fully visualise the scene or action at hand; conversely, there are those who favour a species of abstraction, broad brushstrokes that paint a much more impressionistic picture of what, who and where. I tend to place myself somewhere between the two camps – I certainly like a modicum of description, but not so much that it obscures or swamps everything.  But neither do I like flat, undescriptive prose. For me, words possess flavour, not in any synaesthetic sense, but just in the way they sound and the shapes the mouth makes in forming them – there’s a certain sensuality to every concatenation of syllables that go to create words. Good writing is like an amazing feast, a veritable cornucopia of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, which is the reason why the very best examples linger on in the mind for a long time afterwards.

I understand the function of styles of writing to reflect the action, or to get a feeling or point across. For example, I remember once reading a Richard Laymon novel (the title eludes my memory), and at the time absolutely hated it: for me, the short, punchy sentences and blunt language struck me as particularly uninspiring. Yes, the novel galloped along at a good pace, but it didn’t satisfy in the way I expected it to. Several decades on and I at least now possess an insight into why it was written like that: sentence style and structure reflected the urgency of what was going on and suited it exactly. Laymon knew what he was doing (although, I still don’t particularly like his writing).

One of my favourite writers is Umberto Eco, author of “The Name of the Rose”, “Foucault’s Pendulum” and “Baudolino”, among others. Eco is a medievalist,semiotician, philosopher and critic, and his writings certainly reflect his academic learning and preoccupations. Sure, the language he employs can be quite dense and abstruse, but despite that it’s incredibly poetic and is, for me at least, kinetic and very unobstrusive for all that. This is the kind of writing that I would love to be able to write myself, but know that, although I may have the words, I don’t possess the ability (yet) to invest them with such richness and poetry.

I’m still at that stage in my explorations of writing that I am still trying to find a ‘literary voice’. What I’m attempting to get at in the preceding, in my customary, roundabout way is that I’d like that voice to reflect both the necessities of the story and how it demands to be told, AND  my love of the poetry and flavours of words, without either encroaching on the other or to the prose’s readability. My aim is to hone my writing into a synthesis of the two, and while I’m not entirely sure I have the requisite talent to pull it off, having a goal to aim for and continually pushing in its direction can only be a good thing I think.

I have substantial ambitions for my writing – like any would-be author, I harbour a desire to make a small living through it. In the grand scheme of things, the odds are that it’ll remain nothing more than an extremely satisfying hobby and diversion, with the occasional sale, but then again there are many who had similar thoughts and went on to achieve some success. I find writing hugely enjoyable; loving the process from start to finish, from blank piece of virtual paper to a polished submission-ready manuscript. When all’s said and done, if I can produce something that brings pleasure, vicarious or otherwise, to myself AND others then that’ll most definitely bring a smile to my face…

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