Your writing style is how you communicate your story to your readers. It’s the way you talk and how you integrate the amount of narrative, action, and dialogue within your writing.
You started with your basic structure. After that, you developed your plot events. Next you created real feeling characters. And lastly, designed your story’s setting.
Now, It is finally time to hit that keyboard.
Here is a list of topics this article covers:
General Writing Structure
The best way to understand writing structure is to pick up your favorite books and see how it’s done.
Look at how these authors describe something or make their characters talk to each other. Study the way they weave in the theme and communicate complicated ideas.
Learning from excellent authors through their writing is key to understanding how you want to write your story. Monkey see monkey do.
So what are you really looking for?
These three core concepts are all used to create an interesting pattern that will hold a readers attention.
Your writing style is up to you, but you need to use all three for your story to flow better
Dialogue: Conversation between 2+ people.
Narrative: A spoken or written account of events connecting a story.
Action: What the characters are doing.
Here is an excerpt from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
Harry raised his fist and knocked three times, a dog started barking frantically inside.
“Hagrid, it’s us!” Harry called through the keyhole.
“Shoulda known!” said a gruff voice. They beamed at one another under the cloak; they could tell that Hagrid’s voice was pleased.
“Bin home three seconds . . . Out the way, Fang . . . Out the way, yeh dozy dog . . .” The bolt was drawn back, the door creaked open, and Hagrid’s head appeared in the gap. Hermione screamed.
“Merlin’s beard, keep it down!” said Hagrid hastily, staring wildly over their heads. “Under that cloak, are yeh? Well, get in, get in!”
“I’m sorry!” Hermione gasped, as the three of them squeezed past Hagrid into the house and pulled the cloak off themselves so he could see them. “I just — oh, Hagrid !”
“It’s nuthin’, it’s nuthin’!” said Hagrid hastily, shutting the door behind them and hurrying to close all the curtains, but Hermione continued to gaze up at him in horror.
Hagrid’s hair was matted with congealed blood, and his left eye had been reduced to a puffy slit amid a mass of purple-and-black bruises. There were many cuts on his face and hands, some of them still bleeding, and he was moving gingerly, which made Harry suspect broken ribs.
Notice how dialogue, action, and narrative are interwoven. They each help tell the story, help it transition, and give a natural sense of what is happening.
It is important to remember that writing this way takes time and practice.
At first you may struggle to write like this, but if you keep reading and keep writing, you will eventually get the hang of it.
And if you don’t, just know that every author has their own style of writing, and if it works, then it works. There isn’t any one right way to do anything in writing.
How To Write Dialogue
Dialogue can be one of the trickiest forms of writing to learn (it certainly was for me) and it can be even harder to truly master.
Quotation Marks: When you want to let your reader know a character is speaking you put their words inside double quotation marks.
“I can’t believe you got accepted to Harvard with only a 2.5 GPA.” said Billy.
Great way to explain information without info dumping
Info Dumping: When an author dumps a ton of random information they want the reader to know all at once. This bores readers and interrupts the story with a lecture.
This is a word used either before, in the middle, or after dialogue
- Keep sentence ending punctuation (period, exclamation point) inside the quotation mark
Before: Jared said, “I don’t like the way he looks at you.”
Middle: “The way he looks at you,” Jared explained, “I don’t like it.”
After: “I don’t like the way he looks at you.” said Jared
Other Said Words
Instead of saying “he said” “she said” over and over again, many authors choose to replace said with other words.
Some examples are:
The point of using other said words, is mix the flow and repitition of using ‘said’ over and over again.
The added bonus, is these words help to describe the characters actions and emotional state as well
Here is a link that contain a nice list of other said words to spice up your dialogue tags
The best way to explain subtext, is that it is like adding another story to the story you are already reading.
Subtext is when there is a conversation of dialogue, and the words the characters are saying aren’t what they really mean. In other words, its like a game.
It also makes your story a lot more interesting as your audience will have to pay attention so they can figure out why the characters are being indirect.
How interesting is listening to two characters talking about the mail?
Example 1: Gary sits on a bench next to Amy and Its starting to rain.
“Oh! I felt another drop, time to go ” said Gary.
“I love the rain.” said Amy reaching a hand out to catch the tiny droplets.
“Really? Thats new.”
However, that conversation becomes a lot more interesting if we are given the context that the couple is married and Gary was having an affair. Lets also say that Amy caught them secretly and Gary has no idea.
Does that information change the dialogue?
The characters are saying the same thing, but now there is the added tension between them. The reader is going to wonder if Gary suspects that Amy knows, or whether Amy is going to reveal that she know the truth.
Subtext is like frosting on a cake. You can have great dialogue without it, but trust me, you want that frosting!
How To Write Narrative
This is every detail you want your readers to know or picture in their minds eye.
Narrative is engaging the senses by showing and telling the audience who what where when and why, and in a way that
Narrative is where the narrator tells the story by describing who, what, where, when , and why.
Characters tell their side of the story through dialogue.
Action is the description of what is
Each of the three are separate elements of writing, but combine to create an in depth experience for readers that causes them to feel as if they are actually in the story
Listed below is a tool that might help you write narrative, and a link the the website where it is explained in more depth.
Show Don’t Tell
This is a general rule. The most powerful affect that a narrative can have, is making your readers feel like they are in the story. How do you do this?
Describe your story using great sensory words. Here are a few examples of each:
Sight: tarnished, gaudy, dim, radiant, blinding, obtuse, murky
Sound: crackle, burble, zip, rustle, thump, yelp, whine
Taste: ripe, rotten, zesty, raw, refreshing, sour, spicy, salty, sweet
Touch: Fuzzy, slippery, gritty, coarse, feverish, itchy, oily
Smell: rancid, foul, earthy, stagnant, moldy,
Click Here for an article that has a very detailed section for sensory words and their use
Make your writing concise. Say what you want to say with as few words as possible while being as clear as possible. Nobody wants to read a paragraph that can be summed up in a sentence. It take more time and effort than most people want to give.
Begin sentences with subjects and verbs. Basically, identify who is doing what first.
Either be more or less specific.
By being more specific you are telling the reader exact what to imagine. By being less specific you let the readers paint a picture of what they think is being described.
Generic example: They flew through clouds and over mountain tops as the sun was starting to set.
- What colors did you envision without me telling you? What did the mountains look like?
Specific example: They flew through dense puffy orange clouds and over the tops of gray mountain ranges that had the tint of orange painted on them from the setting sun
- Did you picture the setting a bit differently this time?
If you are somewhere in the middle, you give readers an impression of an idea without vivid details and also don’t leave it abstract enough for them to dream it for themselves.
If you get stuck on a description, it might be easier to forget about it and give a more general picture. You can always go back and add more specific details later.
How To Write Action
What is going on!
What are the characters doing?!
Anything your characters are actively doing is action. However, action is more than just simply doing things.
Action has layers (like ogres). Great action scenes and sequences have deeper meaning to them.
Every action must be used to tell more about the characters, their feelings, context, missing context, say what is unsaid, and -in its own way- tell a story.
It is important when developing the plot to consider literary tools.
Because they will make your life easier. Literary tools are a fast way to stir in some creativity to your story, while adding extra elements proven to make a story more interesting.
Literary tools can be used to foreshadow events, trick the reader into believing the story will end a certain way when it clearly will not. Some basic ones are:
- Red Herring
Not only do they help improve your story, but they will help your writing sound better as well.
Here is a comprehensive guide I found going into great detail to explain literary devices and give examples.
What is Active Voice, and why is it a good thing?
Active voice refers to a style of writing that when read, makes it easier for readers to feel as if they are there with characters in the moment.
Richie gave the panting dog a bowl of ice cold water (active)
The panting dog was given ice cold water. (passive)
Always strive to reduce passive voice in your story.
Study active vs passive voice. Passive voice must be between 5% and 8%. https://blog.shaxpir.com/thoughts-on-passive-voice-705fa4dbd291
These are all examples of auxiliary verbs, which create a passive voice. These describe state of being instead of the act of doing
The ball is hit through the window (passive).
Point of View and Tense
Third persin (limited): Only see the world from the protagonists point of view. And the limited aspect means we do hear some of their thoughts and feelings. If it was third person omniscient we could hear anyone’s mind
Multiple points of view
Are clichés bad? Tropes vs. Clichés
Simply put, if you need an exact rule
Cliches are BAD
Tropes are GOOD
This is not always the case though. Cliches are bad because the audience is going to be reminded of all the other times they experienced that same cliche.
If you can manage to write a cliche in a new way that brings new emotions to the audience, then go for it.
Tropes are a bit more generalized and are often used to create portrayals of a character that are easily recognizable, like an old man with a beard being wise.
They don’t bring as much of the emotional baggage, but tropes can become a cliche so be careful.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSoRzTtwgP4&list=WL&index=17&t=0s (how to write descriptively )
https://self-publishingschool.com/narrative-writing/#elements (Narrative exercises for practice)