Today I got to thinking about my simple, “bare bones” style and how it influences the process through which I write (or maybe vice-versa). Can the WAY we string our words together influence HOW we go about organizing the writing process?
I got to comparing my writing process with what I know about a good friend and the way he writes fiction, and the results shocked me a bit.
You know if you visit here regularly that I like to place authors, stylistically, on a style spectrum with Hemingway marking one end and Faulkner the other.
Faulkners love complex, ornate, and descriptive prose. Hemingways, like me, write for clarity and conciseness. (Neither way’s better. They’re just different.)
MY “HEMINGWAY” TENDENCIES: FOCUSING ON CHARACTER AND PLOT DEVELOPMENT
My writer friend (let’s call him Ben) and I are total opposites when it comes to both style and process. He’s a Faulkner and a planner (uses detailed outlines.) I’m a Hemingway and I love to “wing it.”
Since I write without an outline, I have to throw lots of attention on character and plot development as I advance step by step and chapter by chapter through a draft.
I’m always wondering, “Who is this person really?” “What should happen next?” “How can I connect this subplot with another or bring it to a close?” I never really considered how that process connects with my style, but I think it does.
My simple style, plain sentence structure, and lack of experimental tendencies allow me to focus on character and plot, which I’m in the process of hashing out as I write.
Basically, I couldn’t worry about metaphors and crazy-long sentences while also trying to develop the simplest details of my story.
I love reading, so I write as though I’m a reader of my story. I learn what happens as it happens. That’s a thrill for me, and my favorite aspect of writing fiction. I had never considered before how writing like a Hemingway contributes to success from such a loose and fluid process.
OUTLINE, OUTLINE, OUTLINE: GET PLOT OUT OF THE WAY SO YOU CAN FOCUS ON STYLE
I love reading Ben’s work because he does things with language I could never do. He takes description to a metaphorical level. His characters have brilliant and thought-provoking philosophical contemplations.
In short, I love Ben’s “Faulkner” tendencies. Is it a coincidence that Ben is also a planner, unlike me?
I honestly don’t know. I’ve never asked Ben about that. But it makes sense to me to lay the situation out like this:
- I know Ben outlines, and heavily. He definitely has told me he gets his plots and subplots squared solidly away before he writes.
- I could never come up with the metaphors, descriptions, and layers-deep/extended comparisons Ben is able to write, though they feel effortless when I read them.
- Maybe getting plot and character “out of the way” before writing (via his outline) allows Ben to focus on his style while he’s writing to a greater extent than I do.
- Maybe focusing on style allows him to make such effective use of figurative language, in contrast to me.
DOES ANY OF THIS MATTER?
Maybe not. And I don’t mean to imply that all Faulkners are planners or that no Hemingways use outlines. But I still thought this comparison between Ben and me was interesting.
If nothing else, it provides fodder for thought before I tinker or experiment with my writing process.
It reminds me to contemplate how those changes to my process might affect my style, either by facilitating or throwing a wrench in my chances of getting the most out of my natural stylistic tendencies.
Do you find any connection between your style and how you go about organizing (or not organizing) your writing process? What do you think about this comparison?
If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy the other posts I’ve written about narration and style.
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