1. ThePhysicist13
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    ThePhysicist13 Member

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    Style Efforts to alter style

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ThePhysicist13, May 2, 2015.

    Hi all,

    I have a small problem—or it feels that way, at least. I have a sort of synesthesia that kind of translates the words I read into music, so I tend to think about my writing in terms of this music alone. As a result, my writing takes on an almost Fitzgeraldian musical quality, but without the substance behind it. This isn't a problem per se, but I'm bothered that I struggle to emulate the writing I admire most: journalistic, terse, vigorous writing. It feels like the literary equivalent of using a complex rhyme scheme to convey a scene that could be depicted much more simply.

    I continue to draft over my writing, and constantly fail at changing my style because I can't understand the writing I admire in terms of music. When I read Hemingway, I feel like I am looking at a collage of simple photographs that come together to make a beautiful, meaningful piece. The problem is that I can't create this sort of thing in my mind; I can't visualize it.

    Any suggestions?
    Thanks.
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    You talk about perceiving writing (you give Fitzgerald as an example) in terms of music.
    You then talk about journalistic writing with a complex rhyme scheme = in terms of words.
    You then talk about Hemingway's writing in terms of pictures.

    It sounds as if, like your last post, you're trying to write about a mental issue that you don't fully understand.
     
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  3. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wow, I just read the last post. I won't assume that you are being pretentious--nor will I assume you aren't--but I will say that others may assume that you are. Either way, your writing is unnecessarily abstruse, as if you feel a need to show your intellect to all with every chosen word. Writing is about communicating with others. You should only use words as complex as are needed to get your message across.

    Moving on to your question, I highly doubt that any of us will be able to help you with this sort of a problem. I wish I had further advice for you, but I honestly can't think of any.
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2015
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  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Why don't you put some of your writing on the Workshop, and let people know what kind of help you're looking for? Can't hurt. We're just discussing abstract principles here on this thread. I think we need to see a sample of what you mean.
     
  5. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think style is one of the hardest things to change.

    Have you completed any work? I think it would be useful to get some outside feedback on your current style of writing, just to be sure you DO need to change it. (I'm not sure what @Ben414 was referring to with "the last post", but if he meant the first post in this thread, I didn't find it pretentious at all. So possibly reactions to your style are a matter of taste, in which case you may not need to worry about changing your style at all).

    It seems like you yourself are unhappy with your style, which could be a more serious issue. But, again, I don't think it has to be, depending on your goals. If your principle goal is self-expression, then, yeah, probably you'd want to work on finding a style you're comfortable with. But if your primary goal is publication, I don't think you need to write in the same style as you prefer when reading. Think of all the children's book authors out there, selling lots of books written in a style best suited for children. They're writing for their audience, not themselves.

    So, possibly no change is needed. But if you're sure that you do need to change... To me, the biggest problem with the description you give of your writing is that it lacks substance. Pretty on the surface, but no meaning beneath that. I wonder if you could try writing exercises, things like: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/exercises/6/9/24

    I'm not sure how to fit your model of thinking about writing as music into all this. Maybe you could think of writing as a different form of music? A march instead of a waltz, or punk instead of classical?
     
  6. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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    Not sure I can help you with your efforts to change style - though the last novel I completed was 1st person POV of a criminal - and I felt that my writing voice was that of the criminal. It helped/forced me change my voice. Can you put yourself into the head of your main character and write 1st person?

    I am interested to read about your synaesthesia. My last 1 and half novels have involved a main character with a different sort of synaethesia to yours. Yours does sound interesting - there must be a story in that itself.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Let your own voice express itself through your writing. As long as you can write with clarity, a unique style that is sincerely yours will not hurt you.
     
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  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You shouldn't "change" your style or "emulate" another style per se - but look at what the positives are in those styles that you admire, and think of how that might fit within your current style, and let your style evolve from there.

    And besides, is there something wrong with writing in a musical way? Isn't that similar to poetry? (there's also such a thing as prose poetry) I guess what I'm asking is, just why are you trying to "alter" your style? It is best to write what comes naturally to you, and learn how to improve - as you learn to include what you've learnt into your natural way of writing, that's how your voice/personal style develops.

    Do you want to write like Hemingway? Or do you want to become a master yourself?

    Write like yourself, no one else. Learn from others - but as a writer myself, I see it as completely pointless to try to write like someone else. Emulate their style for practice so you can see better what makes their writing work - by all means. But when it comes to your own work, just be you. Cus no one else can write quite like you :) There's something special about that.
     
  9. ThePhysicist13
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    ThePhysicist13 Member

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    I apologize if I came across that way. I'm an inexperienced, unskilled writer, and I don't consider myself to be above average in intelligence. I'm just learning.

    Basically, I agree with you. I read over my work, and it feels like I'm trying to explain something that doesn't even exist.

    Thank you for your reply.
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My understanding of "synesthesia" is that it takes place on an elemental sensory level - one hears a certain kind of sound and sees the color blue, for example. I would think that reading involves a different kind of mental process, an intellectual process that is not sensory. I mention this because your OP suggests something along the lines of a disorder, of which I would be highly skeptical unless you've actually been diagnosed by a physician.

    I also think that, at 17, you don't really have a hard-and-fast style, yet. You sound fairly well-read for your age, and you clearly want to be able to write. I think the answer is, for now, to write without concern for what your style might be. It will almost certainly be an amalgam of other styles you admire. Don't worry about it. As you continue to write, and to compare your writing with authors you admire, you will find different and more compelling ways to present your stories.

    Good luck.
     
  11. ThePhysicist13
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    ThePhysicist13 Member

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    Thank you. I agree, I don't think my style is "hard and fast" at this point, and I don't yet have the time, energy, or know-how to write completely seriously. I still tend to think of my writing entirely in terms of the way it sounds, which makes for ideologically vacuous garbage sometimes, but I think that has more to do with my maturity level than anything else. I don't claim to know what I'm doing at this point, and I appreciate your response.

    Again, thank you for your advice.
     
  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I found my style really came together when I started writing short stories or small finished pieces. And that only happened just recently. My style was always lurking about but it was hard to recognize when I was working on drafts that took three months to finish. And a 'finished' work may take me anywhere from a year to two. With smaller pieces I found I could edit and really discover who I was, what I thought, what words I wanted to use, how I wanted to arrange them. What mood I was going for and how everything emphasized content.

    I wouldn't get too caught up in how things sound until you have the content set. Sometimes the plainest word is better for sake of clarity than anything that seems better for sound.

    As for forcing a style. I don't think that's possible. One way of starting from scratch is to get down to the basics of what you think of things stripped down to the barest core. Then build from that. You will eventually find that you either want to say something briskly, romantically, humorously, etc and that will shine through.
     
  13. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    No apologies are necessary. If you have no intent, then you have no reason to apologize.

    I can't say that I know what you're going through with your synesthesia. In the first paragraph, you mention hearing the musical quality of your writing. In the second, you mention a collage of pictures. These sound like different phenomenons. Perhaps you could try explaining what you meant some more?

    While others may be able to more naturally pick up logical links in the "how" and "why" of writing when they are writing, perhaps your synesthesia is preventing that. I wonder if giving you an explicit structure scheme would help you revise your own style in a logical way to attain your goals. In other words, maybe some more academic how-to writing books would be beneficial? If you think this might help, you could try Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer.
     

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