Good writing has style. It’s smooth. It flows. But what does that mean? Honesty, it means something a little different to everyone. Every reader has tastes. Those tastes are not the same as the next reader. Writers have their own style which mirror their tastes, and cater to the similar tastes of the readers.
My style reflects my tastes. I like quick-paced story that don’t spell out exactly what the protagonist is feeling at every moment of the story. I like the actions of my characters to define what they’re doing. I like some narration at necessary points, but otherwise I like let the characters do their thing.
Some readers don’t like that. They want to know what the character is feeling at every point in the story. I’ve been criticized (not necessarily by professionals) for not giving enough insight into my character’s emotional state.
This, I feel, goes with the “show/tell” debate. I don’t always tell you what Malone is thinking, but I try instead to show you how she’s feeling with her actions.
This is a cool thing to people-watch for. How do people show emotions?
Instead of saying, “Malone was nervous,” instead imply her nervousness with her actions. “Malone avoided his eye, and stared at the autumn scenery painting on the wall. She tapped the end of her pen on the counter. She crossed her legs, then uncrossed them, and wiggled her feet inside of her boots.”
Instead of saying, “Malone was mad,” imply anger with actions. “She twisted the napkin in her hand until it ripped.”
These sentences individually don’t convey precise emotion, but when they follow something, they imply a reaction – whatever that reaction may be. Perhaps she’s been handed a rejection letter, or an eviction notice, or received a call to postpone a meeting. Maybe someone just insult her.
I am a fan of letting action speak above words – now, that’s not saying that narration can’t be used to smooth things over. Good writing style has narration and action laced together in a harmonious bond. They complement each other.
Some writers narrate more. Some show more. It depends on the writer. My style isn’t for everyone, but there’s an author’s style out there for everyone.
This post was sparked by unprofessional advice on the internet regarding something I’d written; to this internet-person I didn’t write enough emotional reaction and thoughts into my main character. In the crux of the first chapter, her decision isn’t supported by narration. Then they told me to tell less and show more, which is the point in which their advice losing worth. I can’t tell you what the character is thinking without telling you what the character is thinking.
This person wanted more out of my style of writing. They wanted the story to fit their personal tastes, and when it didn’t meet their standards, they decided to inform me on the “lacking” in my writing.
My writing is just fine the way it is. I can’t tailor my style to fit everyone’s tastes. It’s stupid to even try. I write like I want to write. You read what you want, but don’t get mad or tactless when my writing isn’t your tastes. Go find another author to read.