On Story and Style

Ever do a whole lot of hole punching and realize that your work area is covered in little circles of paper? That’s what I sometimes expect to see when I’m revising, except that my environment would be littered with words instead of organizational confetti.

A while back Matt, another writer friend,* posted his thoughts about the importance of story vs. style.** I agree with many of his points—that what often keeps a reader going is the desire to know what happens next (actually one of Mr. Gaiman’s points), and that after the words have faded, the story still remains in the reader’s mind.

I agree with him that story is vitally important, but I think I place greater weight on the importance of style than he does. I love opening a book, reading the first page, and knowing right from there that I’m in the hands of someone who really knows what they’re doing. There’s something magical and heady in that moment.

I’m not sure if I have a style—a consistent one, I mean. It’s hard to take stock of that when you’re still fussing over the details. The revisions I’m doing—the paring away of words—seems to be about revealing the true skeleton of my book. What the flesh will look like… Well, I’m just not sure. Is it that I’ve left only enough on to cover the bones? Am I simply ridding it of bloat? Will I add more later? I have no idea.

But I do like the idea of story as skeleton—the part of a body that remains after time has stripped away the flesh.

*I’m starting to realize I have a lot of friends who are writers.
**What I refer to here as style, he calls prose. I suspect some other people might also refer to it as voice.

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