The Rewrite – Style

I have no style. Really don’t. Ask my hairdresser. I hate my hair. I really, really hate it. I half wish we lived in THX 1138 world where hair doesn’t matter…and the state hands out free drugs. Everyone’s a winner.

I reckon when Robert Duvall reached the top of that giant shaft (still in THX 1138, keep track) the first thing he thought was ‘I’m going to grow my hair how I want.’

I bet it wasn’t. It was probably more along the lines of ‘I have no survival skills whatsoever. No idea how to make food much less gather it. I don’t know what safe plants look like compared to unsafe. Are there animals up here? Is there civilisation? I’m also about to go into withdrawal from the large doses of narcotics the dystopian society handed out, because there are no drugs here. This creeping metal cops were right. I should have gone back down.’

I guarantee you, Robert Duvall’s character dies after the events of the film.

Now, getting back to reality. I am on the the 5th stage of rewriting, 5th out of 6. Remember the others? Understandability, structure, characters, and dialogue. Polish is the last one.

Style. What is it?

Well, it’s how you write. Part of it is the voice of the author, but that’s a little nebulous. The main part, for me at least, is consistency in how I am writing my piece. Have I kept the same tense? Is the point of view consistent throughout? Have I maintained the right vibe? Is an emotive piece about a mental breakdown interspersed with off the wall Monty Pythonesque escapades that completely car crashes the sense of what the story is about? You get the idea.

I have been using the example of a short story I wrote, the Darken Path, as a focus of rewriting. This is a story of a woman being chased, and then she gets eaten by a daemon. That’s pretty much it, with some window dressing. Most stories are like that I guess – complex interweaving of story, plot and character summarised in a simplistic one sentence description. The difference between spin and substance.

So, in this short story, the pov is the woman being chased. I know without looking that a lot of sections have omniscient storytelling – a narrator looking over it. It takes away from her voice, and that isn’t the type of story I’m after. 

Another characteristic is an over use of analogy – ‘She ran. A white wraith through the woods…the men chased, shouting after her, like wild dogs yelping at their sport’. Some of this works in sections, but overuse is problematic. As my dear old mother might say, it reads like a private detective novel…except, fantasy horror and daemons I guess. It’s more important to get a sense of what she (the character in the story, not my mum) thinks it sounds like – it can sound like yelping of wild dogs to anyone, but it has to sound like that to her.

It’s an important part of the story then, to establish a set style. Sometimes, that voice of the writer – a gravitas if you like – can carry the most mundane of plots. Take Hemingway’s The Old Man and Sea. I really have to say, I am not enamoured by a story about a guy going fishing. Yet I persevered, because Hemingway’s voice – his style – in the story kept me going. It makes a big difference.

Kerouac’s On The Road is another good example. When I got to the end of the book I felt like I had gotten to the end of a drunken joy ride, and really gone no where. I won’t deny, as much of a road tripper as I am, the lack of story was disappointing. Maybe that’s the point though, writing beatnik style. Either way, Kerouac had a way of writing that I loved throughout. The people and places were real, even as I was nearly begging for a story to appear. Maybe I need to re-read it one day, to get a better idea. 

I daren’t place myself in the place of the likes of Hemingway or Kerouac. I have a long way to go. All I’m looking for is consistency of style, and make sure my ‘voice’ comes loud and clear. 

Reading out loud is good too. I’ll try that.

Short post tonight, as my battery fades away like a distant dystopian society and fading hair line…


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