7. Language and Style

Page 6 of 10 | Casting a Spell | Viewpoint | First Person | Third Person | Author's Voice | Style | Dialogue |
Keep It Strong | Keep It Active | Try This at Home! |

Y'know, there's more'n one way ter tell a story.

Language. Style. It can make all the difference.

You might choose to tell your story in long, flowing sentences like this one, full of abstract trains of thought and intellectual probings of your subject, carefully crafted to carry your reader along on your language like a canoe floating downstream. Flowery imagery might be a part of your style, your exquisite choice of words touching the reader like gossamer, with a whiff of sassafras.

Or you can hit hard. Fast. Make 'em sit up and listen.

Keep it short.

Get to the point.

Keep the eye moving down the page.

Y'all might jess try some regional dialect, if you think you can pull it off. "Sure, Cahlah. I'll meet you at the pahhty!" (But you know — a little dialect goes a long way. Use just a bit to give the flavor if you like, but then pull back. Don't drown your reader in it.)

Following are some examples of different styles of writing, each of which was used for a different type of story:

This example, from the Daniel Keyes' short story "Flowers for Algernon," uses stylized writing poignantly to portray a character who is struggling with an impaired intellect. The story is told as a series of written reports. (This story, by the way, formed the basis for the movies Charly and the more recent Flowers for Algernon.)
An example of less stylized, but still highly effective, writing can be found in Gatewaya novel that's partly about space exploration, and partly about a man trying to get his head straight through psychotherapy. This is Frederik Pohl using a consciously casual style to bring his characters to life. (We saw a different sort of excerpt from this book in the World Building section.)
For a fascinatingly quirky style, it's hard to beat Cordwainer Smith, whose real name was Dr. Paul Linebarger. Here's the opening to one of his short stories.
Compare that to the more low-key and philosophical tones in this opening to a classic SF novel by Ursula LeGuin — this one about people on a world where everyone is a man . . . and a woman.
And finally, in utter contrast, this snippet from an influential cyberpunk novel by William Gibson…

Lest you doubt that there's a wide array of styles within the SF world.


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