I Be Stylin’?

I was an avid reader as child.  I consumed reams of books, first for the pictures, then for the stories.  I craved a good ripping yarn that transported me away from my troubled world.  I recall reading very little children’s books but hit the ground reading books for tweens and young adults.  I was inspired to write my own stories, although I never thought to get them published.     Teachers and relatives reacted favorably to my efforts, and truth be told, I felt quite puffed up.  So I dreamed of writing The Great American Novel because that’s what great writers did.

Then when I was 17 years old, I perversely asked for a book for Christmas, any book.  My parents scratched their heads, grilled a sales person and gave The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.  I was floored.  Her prose leaped off the page from the first paragraph.  The words were smooth, lyrical and rich without getting in the way of the story, and, to me, enhanced the telling.  I found myself stopping to savor phrases like good wine (as if I had any taste in wine) and then deconstrusting sentences to learn how she did it. Did words flow from her brain that way or was it an acquired skill?  In my mind, this was a true wordsmith and I wanted to write like that.  Then I understood that I’d fallen in love with her lyrical style and realized every good writer had his or her own distinct style.  I devoured more books and reread others, looking for style.  (I’ve seen learned that lyrical prose can be taken too far.  For example, I adored Toni Morrison’s work until it seemed she’d become so enamored of her own lyricism that it drowned the storytelling.) As I reread books, the question hit me like a shot out of the dark: what was my style?  How was I to compose deathless prose with no style?  I didn’t have a clue, and as I’ve gotten away from writing, still don’t have a clue.  Maybe I’m not clear on the concept and simply can’t see mine. I’m just not sure. It’s part of what this experiment is all about.  There’s this feeling that with better understanding, I can remove an obstacle blocking my creativity.

RA had a similar revelation.  He had trouble at auditions until he once arrived for one completely in character.  Then he realized the immersive method style worked for him and best showcased his talent.  He’s been honing that skill every since.

Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) gets his total crazy on in Robin Hood, S3.1; richardarmitagenet.com

5 thoughts on “I Be Stylin’?

  1. I remember being really impressed by Thorn Birds, too. Read it in fifth grade, before I was really old enough to.I’ve realized over the years that although as a reader, I’m usually into a book for plot (my objection to most “great” modern German literature and to a great deal of postmodern US literature is the way it forsakes plot conventions or plots entirely), as a writer, I do it because of the pleasure of the words. I love everything about words and the act of placing them.

    • You must have been a precocious child. I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to grasp The Thorn Birds in 5th grade.I love plot driven stories as well. But some authors make me stop and admire the structure, like good architecture. I’m annoyed when style blocks access to the story, like Beloved , or the story is rendered incomprehensible, like some Tom Stoppard plays.

      • Interesting — agree with you on Stoppard, but I felt Beloved is Morrison’s best book. 🙂

        • I know many people have said that but I could not access it. I could only take so much allegory. Maybe I might have more patience for it now.

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