1. bleakside
    Offline

    bleakside New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2010
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0

    Is there interest in 'classic' style writing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by bleakside, Jan 12, 2010.

    I have always loved Classic Fiction. By this, I don't mean Austen. I read Jekyll and Hyde and was so blown away by the rich vocabulary and gripping originality that I went on to read Frankenstein (now my favourite book) and the Alice Adventures, and I am now torn between The Time Machine and Gulliver's Travels (I tried Dracula, and failed miserably).

    My point is, do people, in the modern era, really appreciate this sort of writing? Because this is basically my writing style. I've started writing, what I believe to be, a fairly original horror set in the late 1800s. Many people have shown fascination in the plot but is there any point if the general consensus is that publishers, probably, will only sell what makes big bucks, rather than releasing original and maybe provocative? (In the sense that it's not of the Stephanie Meyer calibre: business woman, not artist)

    If you want to know what the story actually is, then I'll explain and you can judge for yourself. Otherwise, you can probably guess, mid Victorian horror.
     
  2. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    I read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde only a few weeks ago and while I absolutely loved the story and understand why it's considered a classic masterpiece, I found the language to be less than appetizing. I would say that I liked the book despite the language, certainly not because of it. There's like... 50 semicolons per page? I don't think many editors would applaud that. You could perhaps choose to pluck things from the style and bring it into a modern perspective - similar to how Tim Burton may use techniques from movies of the 50's but do so in a modern and appetizing way.
     
  3. bleakside
    Offline

    bleakside New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2010
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Ah yes, the grammar usage was totally different, but that's amendable. In fact one paragraph near the end was one whole sentence of 100 words, and I believe consisted of about three semi-colons.

    By language or vocabulary, I am meaning more the elegance of the speech.
     
  4. In Antarctica
    Offline

    In Antarctica Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2009
    Messages:
    45
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Ottawa, ON
    You have to keep in mind that the vocabulary in those books was a product of the particular literary culture of the time. These were not writers showing off their vocabulary, they were engaging in the voice of the times. So ask yourself why you want to write like that. Do you want to show off that you can write in a classic style, or does it serve a narrative purpose? If your narrator is a 19th Century gentleman, then sure, he can occupy that voice, but if it's just because you have some sort of antiquarian appreciation of what seems like a rich vocabulary compared to today's style, I'd steer clear of writing yourself into a corner.
     
  5. NaCl
    Offline

    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,855
    Likes Received:
    58
    Writing is an art and craft. It's primary objective is to produce quality stories. Publishing is a business. Businesses must profit to survive.

    As a writer, you can write what publishers think they can sell profitably, or you can ignore marketability and take a chance on finding a publisher with a market for your stories as YOU wish them to be crafted. Reality often dictates a course somewhere in between if you hope for commercial and artistic success.

    My advice is write what you enjoy and then see if there is a market for it. If it fails to attract a literary agent or publisher, then you must decide if the story should be changed enough to become marketable. Ultimately, it's YOUR story, but it's THE PUBLISHER'S market.
     
  6. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    I like the old fashioned way of writing, but I'm quite antiquarian that way.
     
  7. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,912
    Likes Received:
    10,104
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I have recently purchased and begun to read The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton published in 1921. It received a Pulitzer that year and was the first time a female writer had garnered that honor.

    I am reading it as a bit of research in class structure and the intricacies involved with that kind of life.

    The syntax is very convoluted. Whole paragraphs can consists of just one or two sentences. I'm not saying that I am not up to the challenge - I bought the book precisely to get the feel of this kind of life - but it is a bit tedious to read.
     
  8. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    I go through this kind of conflict often in my writing. I read a lot of contemporary fiction and a lot of my style draws from what I guess you could loosely call the Postmodern style. But I also love pre-20th century fiction as well, particularly (as with the OP) their use of language. I've never found any 'older' writing particularly difficult to read, but perhaps to an untrained/unaccustomed reader, it may prove a challenge. And, again, it depends so much on genre. If you're writing literary fiction, there's a lot you can get away with if you write well. With genre fiction, and I don't mean this pejoratively, readers (or, perhaps more accurately, publishers) are a lot less receptive to experimental or unorthodox writing styles.

    So basically, if you write well and have a 'classic' style, there will be a market for it, but the market isn't likely to be huge. Of course, the literary canon is full of writers from the 20th century who write in a relatively antiquated way and have found huge success, so never say never.
     
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    in antarctica has nailed the problem, imo... the market for what you propose will be very narrow, if one exists at all nowadays... and you'd have to be an exceptional writer to be able to pull it off and not sound merely pompously pretentious...

    which doesn't mean you shouldn't try it, if you're really committed to the idea, but you do need to be realistic about it...
     
  10. Denied Fixation
    Offline

    Denied Fixation Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2010
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Kansas
    I'm with you! I LOVE the classic style of writing. Long drawn out sentences that paint pictures... but there are a few artists today that pull off a similar style and do just fine.

    I hear it often... "I can't read that persons work. I don't understand it! Why can't they just say that the wind is blowing? I don't need to know every detail!"

    I'm desperately hoping I can keep my verbose writing style because anything else would be boring to me! Don't give up, Bleakside!
     
  11. Delphinus
    Offline

    Delphinus Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Messages:
    175
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    England
    It thrice surfeiting borders of taste and sanity, be assured writing pretentiously is provocative- ah, but regardless of class or of one's art, one must always remember that one lives in the modern age; the mode, the very rhythm of speech has altered beyond recognition; idioms have shifted, twisted, rearranged themselves in quite new and majestic matters; what once was a valid figure of speech now dances across dear reader's mind appallingly, as a perverse cliché; thus should we aspire to write in the form of the modern day, for, disregarding popular ignorance, the world has changed since seventeen hundred.

    Good-bye!
     
  12. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    ^ You do know that in the 1700s the spelling would be vastly different?
     
  13. bluebell80
    Offline

    bluebell80 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2009
    Messages:
    636
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Vermont
    It's very annoying when people who, for what ever their own person reasons are, love the classic styles over the more modern styles, but then talk down to the people who aren't found of them. For many people it isn't that they are too dumb, too jaded by modern day language, to enjoy the classics, but they simply don't like that style.

    I'm a slightly different breed. I thoroughly enjoy books written in modern language, using our terms, our way of speeking, but I also love the classics and read them often. Some classics though, are just...just freaking boring to read and incredibly difficult to understand due to the language differences and style of writing.

    I loved Bram Stoker's Dracula, but to do a thorough literary analysis of it, I read it a good fifty times. It is hard to digest. Dickens is another difficult read. He blathers on and on and on and sometimes I use his writing as a sleep aid.

    Other classic writers, while heavy on the purple prose, like Austin or Woolf, or even Poe, their writing flows in such a way that it is much more enjoyable to read.

    I read Romeo and Juilet at least once a month between the ages of 13 and 16. I loved that book. "Oh happy dagger." probably my favorite line ever. Wuthering Heights is probably another of my favorites.

    The problem I see is that I wouldn't purchase a modern day book written in the classical style. I read the classics because they are just that, classics! They are stories, writings that are the foundations for modern literature, however, I don't see the point in trying to write in another time era's voice.

    I write in modern language. I also tend to be a minimalist in both my reading and writing. I like things that don't give me every little detail. But there is a fine balence between enough, too much, and not enough. Good books fall in the Goldilocks zone of writing. Every reader has their own Goldilocks zone. This means there is room for great variation in writing styles.

    So, basically, I don't worry about it when I'm writing. I just write.
     
    1 person likes this.
  14. Denied Fixation
    Offline

    Denied Fixation Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2010
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Kansas
    LOL! You rock! This made my morning...
     
  15. Delphinus
    Offline

    Delphinus Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Messages:
    175
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    England
    Was there even a universally-accepted spelling codex in the 1700s?
     
  16. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    No, but social convention on spelling was different to proper English as we understand it. For example, it would have been perfectly acceptable to have the sentence ‘It was there ball’ as well as 'The ball was over their' as the seperation between their and there did not exist then.
     
  17. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,912
    Likes Received:
    10,104
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Let us attempt to stay on track, please...
     
  18. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    Well, this is still on track really--using archaic language is just as weird as using archaic spelling, although it can be fun. But it tends to be terribly wordy, and wearing after a short time.
    Even writing historical fiction it's not possible to write the same syntax exactly--very few readers would follow it. I mean, if I was to write a dialogue faithfully representing myself having a conversation with my highly cultured and educated grandmother (sadly no longer with us), who was born in 1898, people wouldn't get half of it. I'm not talking about slang here, more a turn of phrase.
     
  19. Cosmos
    Offline

    Cosmos Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2009
    Messages:
    241
    Likes Received:
    5
    I'm probably one of the few people who don't particularly care for the old classic style of writing. I do enjoy some of the oldies, but in general, they're too meandering for my tastes. In today's market, people's time are limited, and even when I do have time, I generally don't want to spend thirty minutes trying to figure out if a person sneezed or laughed in a paragraph. I want to be able to digest all the nuances, characterizations, descriptions and action fairly swiftly so I don't have to delay the enjoyment of the story. If the story meanders a lot it generally ends up unread by me.
     
  20. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    I don't know if you are thinking of getting published, but writing in a style people don't really want to read will hurt your chances of publication. Personally, I don't like the idea of modern writers writing in a style from the 19th century. Part of the reason is that the way we speak and language in general has changed, so modern writing should reflect that.
     
  21. Atari
    Offline

    Atari Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2009
    Messages:
    455
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    Louisiana
    Although I probably would be unable to read most older books (Charles Dickens' Moby Dick-- I could not get passed the first few pages, because he just kept going on and on) I do enjoy Sherlock Holmes, and intend to write in a more intellectual or elegant style, but one which remains accessible.

    I would have to read your writing to see what extent you are using the 19th century language.
     
  22. Aeschylus
    Offline

    Aeschylus Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2009
    Messages:
    240
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    I don't know what to say about this. I've recently picked up some Edgar Allen Poe again, and I'm really drawn in by the way he writes, the different style. But I think that if I were to pick up some book off the Barnes & Noble "bestseller" display, I might be turned off by the same elements of story.

    I think that in a sense, people find the idea of classical style to be intriguing. When they read something they know to be a classic, they can appreciate the wonderful things about the old styles--of which, of course, there are many. But just as no one wants to start reading Homer's The Odyssey only to discover that it's written with modern prose and slang, old styles can feel anachronistic.

    That doesn't mean that you couldn't pull it off. I've never read anything of yours, so I don't know what you're capable of. But no matter how skilled you are, you'd probably be better off incorporating elements of old styles into your writing, rather than using them completely. Pick and choose.

    Last Tuesday (you'll see where I'm getting with this in a moment), I used the opening paragraph of Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" as an audition piece for a play. When I put myself in character and played the part of the madman that narrates the story, the speech flowed and seemed natural, almost as if it were written in modern, 21st-century prose (I'm not complimenting myself, I'm making a point). I've watched other pieces by him acted out, in more than one way, and it seemed perfectly comprehensible and realistic that way. But acting interprets it for the observer; reading is different.

    What I was trying to say in that last paragraph is that there is nothing that makes these older styles unrealistic or unworthy; it's just that people today aren't used to reading that way. Watching Shakespeare acted out always seems to be much easier to follow for me than simply reading it out of a book, and this is because the actors have already interpreted the writing or us; when we read it ourselves, we are forced to see it in a very different style to any that we usually read, and have trouble making sense of it.

    Similarly, a writing style should be the style that can be used to best communicate with the modern audience. If you're writing for a select audience that would prefer a style like the one you used in your example, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it would be best; but if you're writing for a broader audience, you should try to write something that interests and appeals to them. You should definitely use elements of older styles, but don't go too far with them.

    I don't know if this has been of any help. I admire your ideas and your interest in forgotten methods. Tell me how this works out for you.
     
  23. Delphinus
    Offline

    Delphinus Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Messages:
    175
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    England
    Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susana Clark is a good example of blending 19th-century literature with modern prose successfully. It won a number of awards, and once you get past the strange language, it's a great novel.
     
  24. thinking
    Offline

    thinking Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2009
    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think you should use language appropriate for the characters and the setting.

    Look at The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald used ornate, superfluous language because his characters lived in an ornate age full of superflous things. Hemingway wrote in a monotonous tone because his characters were in a war. Classic writers wrote in a certain way because they wanted to convey certain things about their characters and their settings. That's why they wrote classics!

    In other words, don't write like Mary Shelley for the sake of writing like Mary Shelley. Write like her if it serves a purpose. if your characters live in a Victorian age, write in a style that mimics Victorian prose.

    Just my two cents, anyway....
     
  25. InkDream
    Offline

    InkDream Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    the Evergreen State
    Some people still appreciate the classics. I say, keep plugging away at it. Classics are classic for a reason. They keep making comebacks.

    I've been reading the Three Musketeers between other books, it's great. You should check it out.
     

Share This Page