Ask the Author: writing styles

Ask the Author – The Question: What makes an author’s style of writing unique?

This will sound sort of trite, but: personal experience.

Here’s the thing, and this, again, sounds trite, and indeed, it’s overused, but it’s also true: no one can write the story that *you* can write. Because everyone’s personal experience shapes them differently, and they approach stories differently.

I have an exercise I do when I teach creative writing classes. I give everybody the same 5 sentences, the opening of a fairy tale type story written in the barest-bones language that I can manage. I ask them to rewrite those sentences in their own words, and then to keep writing for 10 or 15 minutes. And then I do that TERRIBLE THING where I ask them to read it aloud.

The first few people are always nervous about reading their work aloud, of course, because it’s uncomfortable, but almost every time I’ve done it, after the first couple people have done their reading, everyone else becomes much more interested in doing their own…

…because they have all written something different.

They’ve gone different directions. They’ve used the language differently. They’ve interpreted words from the bare-bone sentences differently. They’ve assigned different genders to the single named character. They’ve written something unique.

And it is the best possible exercise I’ve ever found for a writing class to show people that they all, individually, have something to say in a way that nobody else can say it. They all started with the *exact* same prompt, and they all went somewhere different with it.

So that’s the honest truth. That’s what makes a writer’s style unique. You’re literally the only person who can write like you do. Someone else might come close, or be similar, but at the end of the day, you bring who you are to the table, and nobody else can replicate that.

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