Style is a catch-all term that defines the identity of a writer. It is the way that the write, and, if one is writing fanfiction it is the writer's own voice and style, as well as their best attempt to imitate the voice of a writer or creator whose characters you are borrowing. Style comes from voice and the overall tone of in the writing. Voice, in this instance, means the authorial personality the writer assumes. This could be the writer's own voice or the voice of the character. Tone being how the story feels to the reader.
Style, in many senses is the opposite of voice, it is the intentional flourish that is added into writing. Every author does their own thing that makes their story sound different from anyone else. There is no specific term for various styles of writing, beyond broad terms such as 'this is a literary writing style' or 'this style is better suited for academic writing.' An essay and a novel have entirely different writing styles, but an essay can still be humorous and contrite, while a novel can take on a serious, academic done. Style is the way that something is written.
In order to fully develop a writing style, one must find a voice for the story, and set a tone. Is the narrator (be it from the first, second, or third person perspective) a serious person? Are they the sort who is constantly cracking jokes within the narrative? A writer must decide how they want their story to sound, first and foremost upon beginning. As a young writer, it is better to find a voice that is closest to their own. It should come as naturally to you as breathing, and once a writer finds it, they should stick to it.
Tone comes from word choice, sentence structure and grammatical and punctuation choices. It must match the voice that a writer has decided on for a particular story, both from a narrative and audience perception standpoint. Ultimately, a writer has to settle on a tone that fits them best. Variation is the sign of a good writer, and with practice switching between tones becomes easier. Ultimately, a writer should write how they feel the most confident. If a chatty, friendly tone works for them, then that is how they should write until they grow more confident as a writer.
A writer must remember that intent isn't magical, and a point must be shown within the work. A writer cannot assume that a reader has anything but the barest of understanding of their characters, as opposed to the writers own, intimate knowledge of them. So while a sentence may sound one way to a writer, it might sound incredibly different to a reader. Tone and voice are ways to correct this problem and keep the writers style in line with their narrative choices.
When writing in the style of another author, as most fan writers for literary-based fandoms tend to attempt to do, one has to think consciously about word choice. A Harry Potter fanfic, for instance, cannot be written in the style of Kurt Vonnegut. While interesting, it probably wouldn't work or reflect the tone of voice that JK Rowling worked so hard to put into her books. Stories that capture the original author's voice tend to play very well with readers as well, as the voice and tone are recognizable. Some of the best Harry Potter writers are the ones who were able to capture Rowling's voice and prose and effectively mimic it.
Examine things like word choices and how dialogue is structured within the original source material. Does the author use certain phrases repeatedly, do they have special meaning? How are the sentences structured? Are they long and effusive, or short and staccato? Are there lots of descriptors or are the images created through lots of little bits of detail without spending ten pages describing the thing? If a writer asks themselves these questions while setting up to attempt to emulate another writer's style, they'll be in a better position to do so.
Creating consistency in a writer's personal authorial style is also hugely important, whether they are writing fanfic or original work. A writer must remember that how they personally feel about a particular topic might not always be how the speaker or character feels. Personal opinions can color writing, and it is from the writer's personal opinion that tone evolves. While writing, it's important to keep in mind that your tone and voice should be consistent. If writing from the first person perspective ("I" statements) the narrator will not know the thoughts and/or feelings of the other characters unless they are expressed plainly either through body actions or actually articulated. While this may seem like a no-brainer, it's a huge problem in writing and a lot of young writers struggle with keeping their narrative voice consistent.
A good way to ensure that a writer has effectively captured and maintained a voice throughout a piece is to read the story out loud. In actually saying the words that are written down on the page, a writer can see how, through strange quirks in language, they might phrase things awkwardly or move words around in a sentence that our eyes simply miss until it is read out loud. Also, in reading out loud a writer can discover inconsistencies in the voice such as moments when the narration shifts out of perspective, or places where the tone feels off. A person can write a sentence over and over and over again until the tone is write and young writers should not be afraid to do this.In reading out loud, the writer can also identify places where there needs to be something more added into the writing to have it, say, pack a bigger punch. These are what are known as literary devices or components of style. Devices such as imagery, punctuation, suspension of disbelief, word choice and symbolism can all be elements of a personal writing style.
The first device is the narrator. This is the character whose point of view the reader is following. As a writer, one can set this up as many different things. First Person, Second Person, Third Person...the writer can establish the narrator as unreliable, or speaking from a stream of consciousness - all these will influence how a reader sees, feels, and hears the story that the writer is telling. Stylistically, when the point of view matches the story that is told, they meld together to create an amalgamation of so many beautiful elements that they all feed into the overall power of the work.In writing, another big element is symbolism. Symbolism is oftentimes a device that young readers and writers scoff at, because they understand it to simply be something that they need to know for school. "The Eagle Means Freedom," for example. The thing is, symbolism can create imagery, and it can be used to drive home a point about something else, perhaps a point that the writer wants to make without deviating too far from the narrative. Too many fanfic writers shy away from symbolism and from imagery because of a misconception that these literary tools are 'too dense' or 'over the scope of a fanfiction.' They would rather save it for the actual grown up writers, or something along those lines. This is a poor attitude to have, for well places image or repetition of certain images can add so much to a story when properly executed.
Like with all things, unless these devices are used, they will become forgotten, and forgetting them will breed lazy writers. A writer, no matter what their subject matter is, should not be afraid of showing what they can do, from pushing themselves to the point where they are in unchartered waters. Writing fanfic is easy, writing fanfic with a style that is unique, or imitating someone else's, now that's hard.
Have you found your 'style' and your 'voice' yet? Which author's style do you love the most?
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How to Write FanfictionNon-Fiction
How to Write Fanfiction is a writing resource that contains tips and tricks on crafting fanfiction stories - by the community, for the community. This guide will serve as a helpful point of reference for fanfiction writers both old and new. We ultim...