A recent link to a fun website prompted a discussion on Facebook. And it raised some interesting questions. Mainly this: do we ever adjust our style when we write a different genre, or do we write every genre in exactly the same style?
Here’s the link. It ‘analyses’ your writing ‘style’ and then tells you what famous author you write like most. When I tried it I got one response for my historical novel, Sword of Mordrey, and another for a short dark metaphysical piece. So, this made me wonder: Do some authors write in the same voice and style, no matter what the subject matter or genre? And do others adjust their style to somehow better ‘fit’ the writing they are taking on?
Some people feel that changing sentence length or word choice is not changing one’s style. That using long flowing sentences would not constitute using a different style, for instance. But I think it does. Imagine if you read something by Hemingway that had long compound sentences and many esoteric four-syllable words. Would you recognize it as Hemingway? What if it was also written in present tense and utilized many semi-colons? What if it used parenthesis for asides? Starting to sound more like Neil Gaiman now, aren’t we?
Most published authors write within only one genre. It’s very common. And so perhaps their ‘style’ is one they’ve found works best for that genre? Imagine your favorite author. What does that author write? Probably s/he writes your favorite genre: horror, political thrillers, mystery, fantasy, whatever. Now, try to imagine that same author writing in a genre that is the extreme opposite. Would their exact same style work? I really want to know what you think, here. So please consider this carefully and leave a comment.
I recently had an interesting experience. For the past couple of years I have been working on Sword of Mordrey. It’s an historical novel set in 1100. So, it’s medieval. When I set out to write a medieval novel I had a certain voice in my head as to how the characters of this time period would speak, and also the voice I would use to describe events to the reader. Many of the folks in the writers groups I attended during the past two years know my writing only as this voice, having never read any of my horror, or literary writing. So, when I submitted a dark, literary, metaphysical humor piece, it was met with resistance and shock by a some. Which both interested me, and made me smile.
It interested me because it got me thinking about how easy it would be to get pigeon-holed into only one genre as a published author. Readers expect something familiar from authors they like. We want to know ahead of time just what we are getting. And this reaction made me smile because it reminded me there is not just one writer inside me, but many. My bag of tricks is so big even I can’t see the bottom. Which I find reassuring.
Still, I like to think that even if I changed my genre, changed my word choice and sentence length—someone who really knows my writing would still recognize it. And perhaps that is the illusive thing we call style.
Writers: do you write in more than one genre? Do you use exactly the same word choices, sentence syntax and length, etc, for each genre? Or do you adjust your style? How do you define style?
Readers: Are you ‘upset’ when a favorite author writes different than you are used to? Do you prefer reading authors who stick to one genre and don’t deviate from it? If so, why?