A writing realization

Last night I came to a kind of realization about my writing- I have a style. When did this happen? If you'd asked me a week ago I would have said no way, I haven't found one yet. I’m not good enough for one!


What got me on the subject was when one of my friends couldn't understand how some writers say they can’t read while writing because they're afraid they'll copy what they've read. I had exactly this fear for a long time and I realize why: it's because I used to write fanfiction and roleplay fandom characters and I got really good at mimicking the writing style of others. This means that when I first started writing original fiction, I didn't have my own style yet and it sorta morphed based on what I'd read recently.

Then yesterday I got to thinking while reading a fantasy novel by someone I hadn't read before. It’s good and well-written and I’m enjoying it, but it feels so... same-y. I don’t know if this is because a lot of first published books are sort of similar because the authors haven’t yet found their voices or if it’s just something to do with the fantasy genre. I’m not even talking about how so much fantasy falls into the same kind of vaguely-medieval time period, but about the writing style itself. It’s always paragraphs of description for the world building; paragraphs that are nice and pretty, but so similar in style to what I’ve read before. Characters, even if they’re well-rounded and developed, that tend to sound like characters in other books, like you could take one character out of a book and slide them into another and they’d still sound/act/look/whatever like they’d fit in there, too. No matter how good these books are, there’s just something about the style of narration and dialogue that feels so interchangeable, so standard for the genre. Nothing is exactly the same and it’s taken me decades to really notice this, but now that I’m thinking about it... yeah. I see it. Obviously there are exceptions, but there is enough similarity happening that I’m noticing it.

And this is where I get worried. I don't write like that. How am I supposed to get published in a genre where I don't write like the other authors? I don't use paragraphs of description, not usually and not all that often. My writing hinges on dialogue, not narrative. My characters constantly fire back and forth with each other and whoever else they're meeting, but usually with each other because I have a fairly large cast. That's where a lot of my humor and wordplay is located, although some is in the narrative. (And it also explains why I was having so much trouble with the draft of book 2 that was told from the POV of a character who doesn’t interact with people much! He wasn’t talking!)

I write close third person (whatever that’s technically called), which is something that gets done in fantasy, but... it's like so many authors have this serious, normal outside POV even when it's a close POV story. I don't. My narrative takes on the voice of the POV character- the snarky characters tend to have snarkier narrative. The verbose and kind of pretentious characters get a lot of adverbs and wordplay in the narrative. My dopey characters mean the narrative notices different things than it does when following the others. It’s hard to explain, but it’s something I’m noticing that starts to appear somewhere around the second/third draft. (My first/second draft is just a mess- no style, just throwing ideas and dialogue at the page to see what sticks, nothing is pretty. Gods, don’t ever read one of my early book drafts, lol!)

I mean, technically this is epic fantasy because I have a created world and cultures and species, but it's like... I'm not epic in my approach. At all. Some people write dark fantasy, I write dork fantasy. And that's it. That's my style. I've finally finally reached a point in writing where I feel like I have a specific way of telling my stories. I'm definitely not at the level of skill I want to be someday, but there's a style that’s mine. And that makes me giddy! Now I just need to get these novels to the required number of drafts where that voice is there so I stop getting bummed out about how sucky the books sound and feeling like I’m a hack. XD

~Meri

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