Sometimes you’ll read a book and you’ll think—um, did a vampire write this?
That’s not because it’s sexy and sparkling like the Twilight vampires or sexy and bloody with a rocking 1980s soundtrack like the Lost Boys vampires or sexy and in New Orleans like the Anne Rice vampires, but because the language in the story is so flowerly, so overwrought, so full of clauses that you think, “Only someone over two-hundred years old could have written this.”
Yes, you could argue that M.T. Anderson successfully did this with Octavian Nothing, which won a butt-ton of rewards, but you are not Tobin Anderson.
And that’s part of the point. A lot of us authors look to the classics, to the past and think, “Yo, Charles Dickens, man. Peeps are still talking about him. I should copy his style.”
Also, don’t try to sound hip when you aren’t hip like we just did up there.
If you’re writing historical fiction and like Tobin or Paul Kingsnorth or Dorothy Dunnett, and you think you have a really good handle on the syntax and speech patterns of the time, go for it.
But if you’re writing a contemporary novel about a woman in Maine living with a tall man and two dogs and three cats and one kid and figuring out if writing is worth it? No.
Honestly, even most historical fiction is written in modern language and style.
Well, that’s because the novel is a communication. It’s you writing for the reader. It’s not just you writing. And you usually want the reader to feel comfortable in that novel, all snuggled in for a cool journey into the character’s world aka your book.
Write like you’re communicating with an audience that’s living right now if you want most readers to enjoy it and keep turning the page.
Here’s an example or what we’re talking about.
While, she stood, one foot upon the ancient sleeping device, and then seemed askance at what stance she had partaken, inhaled a breath so great that it moved her bosom in a terrifying rapturous way, pivoting and climactically inhaling without any scant emotion.
She stood with her foot on the bed. Her face flushed and some sort of scandalous thought crossed her mind. She turned away, sighing so deeply her whole body moved with it.
Okay. Neither are awesome. But one’s a lot easier to understand, right? That’s because it is in the style that’s today’s speaking/writing style, not the style of undead cats and vampires.
Writing Tip of the Pod
Remember that writing is communication. Make it understandable for the people who are alive now.
Dog Tip for Life
Be obvious about your wants. If you want to hang out with the undead, let them know.
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License.
Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.
AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW! It’s taking a bit of a hiatus, but there are a ton of tips over there.
We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream biweekly live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.
Carrie is reading one of her raw poems every once in awhile on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!