What is writing style? It’s an elusive topic, in many ways.
To help me chase down the essence of writing style, I’ve called upon some author friends for their opinions. First, we have Roger Escbacher, author of a number of middle-grade books, such as the Leonard the Great series, Dragonfriend and Giantkiller, middle-grade/young adult fantasy adventure stories set in the time of King Arthur, as well as Undrastormur: A Viking Fantasy Adventure.
How would you describe your own writing style?
I would describe my writing style as cinematic. My goal is to describe the action, world and characters in my book in such a way that readers have a movie playing in their head as they read along. I think this comes from two places, the first being that I’m a television animation writer. In animation, one has to fully describe what is happening so that the artists can animate it. Detailed descriptions are required in my “day job.” Second, as a reader I’ve always preferred books written in that style. I love getting lost in the “brain movie” when I’m reading for pleasure. In general, SF/fantasy books tend to be written this way, which is probably why I read this genre almost exclusively.
Are there any authors whose style you admire? Do you try to emulate them?
I admire the writing styles of Neil Gaiman, J.R.R.Tolkien, Douglas Adams, J.K. Rowling, and Rick Riordan, to name a few. All of these folks are quite “cinematic” so I suppose that’s the reason why. Of those four, I’d say Tolkien would be the strongest influence. I love his command of the epic tale so much that I find myself rereading LOTR and The Hobbit every couple of years. Oddly enough, I try not to emulate him too closely for fear of coming off as a low-grade copy of a true master.
Are there authors whose writing style you dislike?
How important is your writing style to you? Are you happy with your style, or are there aspects of it you try to change during rewriting or editing?
My writing style is very important to me and I am happy with it for the reasons listed above. When I’m editing, I do my best to make the manuscript an exciting and easy read. My goal is to produce a page-turner — something that flows. I want readers to fly through the book and not get knocked off course by speed bumps and, as Elmore Leonard says, “the parts that readers tend to skip.”
How can readers identify your writing style? Are there particular words or kinds of words that you tend to favour? Sentence structures? Or is it more in the story, the pacing or the characters?
For me, it’s all about story, pacing, and characters. Natural-sounding dialogue is important, too. I hope that readers would describe my style as fast-paced and exciting.
Do you think your genre imposes certain restrictions on writing style?
Not really. I tend to write “quest-y” stories and for me that’s liberating in that everyone expects that the hero and his friends will go somewhere, do a lot of stuff along the way, almost get killed but survive and make it home. The challenge is to tell a quest tale in a way that follows the expected rules but also continues to surprise the reader.
Do you think your audience responds to your writing style, consciously or unconsciously?
Yes, I do. My favorite reader compliment on Dragonfriend was from a kid who said, “I can totally see this as a movie.” I smile every time I think of that.
How important do you think writing style is to an author’s commercial success?
I honestly don’t know the answer to this one.
Thank you very much, Roger.
Readers, let Roger and me know what you think. How important is a writer’s style? What do you like? What do you wish authors would stop doing? And does an author’s writing style affect your decision to buy or recommend a book?