Writing Forums

Writing Forums is a privately-owned, community managed writing environment. We provide an unlimited opportunity for writers and poets of all abilities, to share their work and communicate with other writers and creative artists. We offer an experience that is safe, welcoming and friendly, regardless of your level of participation, knowledge or skill. There are several opportunities for writers to exchange tips, engage in discussions about techniques, and grow in your craft. You can also participate in forum competitions that are exciting and helpful in building your skill level. There's so much more for you to explore!

Staying True to Your Prose Style (1 Viewer)

Status
Not open for further replies.

EternalGreen

Senior Member
There's something that I learned recently: people who tell you how to what voice to use, are wrong.

I learned this at the price of a few self-butchered (stuff that could maybe have been beautiful, but we'll never know) stories.

If you're inclined to write style-voice-and-aesthetics-over-substance, do it; to hell with anyone who says you can't.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
I've personally never encountered anybody who tried to tell me 'what voice to use'.

I have encountered lots of people who said the voice I used didn't work for them. Those people are not wrong.

If 10 people read your story and all ten of them say the voice isn't appealing, it's valid feedback that should be listened to and it takes a certain degree of arrogance or indifference or both to say "I will stay true to my prose style". But what about if it's 9/10 who say that? Or 6/10? Or 4/10? At what point do we writers want to listen? Do we ever want to? If we're in the 'to hell with them' state of mind, what's the purpose of having readers if we aren't going to give a shit what they say?

There is no 'wrong', there is only opinion and consensus and how the writer interprets this is down to them. One thing I know is there's nothing virtuous about "staying true" to crap that is crap, just as there's nothing virtuous about wholesale changes made to the smallest gust of wind. Taking advice is a personal choice, subject to one's personal filter. But there is zero point in getting combative against feedback of any kind.

Readers and critics are not the enemy, they aren't out to sabotage you. It blows my mind how many people seem to think they are.
 

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
You own your story. Only you can change it for better or for worse. Everyone has an opinion. It's up to you to sort through the opinions and decide which ones , if any, can make your story better. But if two readers give you similar feedback then that's something you should probably look at. Even if their advice doesn't work for you, two or more opinions on the same subject means that whatever you've done stands out and it's worth a second look. That doesn't mean it has to change but it means people are noticing it. On the other hand, if you don't want feedback, don't t post your story in a workshop.
 
Last edited:

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
There's something that I learned recently: people who tell you how to what voice to use, are wrong.

I learned this at the price of a few self-butchered (stuff that could maybe have been beautiful, but we'll never know) stories.

If you're inclined to write style-voice-and-aesthetics-over-substance, do it; to hell with anyone who says you can't.

This is one reason why I'm careful to keep a copy of each stage prior to editing. Too many times I've decided to fall back onto an earlier version, so I tend to not write over them unless they are truly awful.
 

Greyson

Senior Member
I remember a talk from Neil Gaiman, I think it's his "Make Good Art" speech on Youtube, but he said something similar. With time, you'll get to know which comments are worth taking to heart, and which are purely personal opinions of people. Some might want to make the story their own, others just don't realize what they're saying. In either case, it's your story, your voice. You get to tell it how you want. Nothing wrong with that :)
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
I just think it's a really bad prior to go into writing, or really anything, with the assumption that people are wrong and feedback should be resisted. Do people get into skydiving with the preformed idea that 'people' are going to give them bad advice on how to pack a parachute?

I know this is art and all, but waaaay too often we buy into the trope of 'PEOPLE GONNA DOUBT ME! AIN'T GONNA UNNERSTAND ME!' and, like, chill out, Moira, you're not Kurt Cobain grunging in his Olympia basement. If they say your voice sucks, it maybe actually does.

90% of people I have shared my writing with have been nothing but helpful or positive or both. Yes that leaves 10% of douchebags, but holy-fuckin'-snowball don't we just love to let those few folks dominate our day?

I think a good standpoint is to always assume other people know something we don't, that they have something valuable to teach us. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be on guard for bad actors, but innocent until proven guilty works in feedback.
 

Tiamat

Patron
There's something that I learned recently: people who tell you how to what voice to use, are wrong.

I learned this at the price of a few self-butchered (stuff that could maybe have been beautiful, but we'll never know) stories.

If you're inclined to write style-voice-and-aesthetics-over-substance, do it; to hell with anyone who says you can't.
One of the biggest takeaways I've gotten from reading the short fiction included in magazines like The New Yorker (and others) is that phrasing in fiction is roughly 85% a matter of taste. The 15% is reader comprehension, but beyond that, you do you, rules be damned.

That said, there are certainly styles and voices that are more marketable than others. Also, I don't know that I agree that people who offer up suggestions that might alter the voice of your story are wrong. You might not like them and you're certainly free to disregard them, but I also think it's important to know how your writing lands with readers--especially if your goal is to seek publication (and from what I've seen of your posts, yours is).

So I guess I kind of agree with you (and others in this thread) but I also kind of agree with lucky.
 

Bayview

WF Veterans
As someone with a strong aversion to writing that sounds pretty but has no actual substance to it, I'd definitely agree with anyone being critical of writing that follows that model. I'd also say it's a type of writing I see fairly often from beginning writers on writing boards, but very rarely from well-published authors in books or magazines. So, no, of course nobody should tell anyone else what they can write, but if a writer asks for critique, I think it's valid to... critique.

And, really, what could the critique say, otherwise, of a piece of writing that's apparently deliberately style-over-substance? If the author isn't concerned about substance, then all that's left to critique is the style.

Possibly best to not post for critique in that case.
 

Tettsuo

WF Veterans
There's something that I learned recently: people who tell you how to what voice to use, are wrong.

I learned this at the price of a few self-butchered (stuff that could maybe have been beautiful, but we'll never know) stories.

If you're inclined to write style-voice-and-aesthetics-over-substance, do it; to hell with anyone who says you can't.
That word 'can't' gets in my craw. Of course no one can tell you what you can or can't do with your art. You can do whatever you want. But, if you want to share it with others, you'll probably need to take a look at their complaints.

Also, most people don't really know what exactly is wrong with a piece of writing (unless you're a writer or an editor). Most are simply telling you how they feel and often point to things that are actually not a problem. But, they are sensing something off. This should prompt you to review your work and see where there could be issues. Sometimes, they have a gem to give you, even if they don't know what exactly their talking about.
 

luckyscars

WF Veterans
I'm trying to think of a single good/successful novel that prioritized style/voice/aesthetics over substance and having difficulty. I can think of some that are maybe a bit better known for their style/voice/aesthetics than 'what happens', but those tend to be books that still have plenty of substance in other ways (character study, for instance).

Perhaps there are a few on the avant-garde end of the spectrum but doesn't really feel like something that's remotely credible as a path. I have certainly never met a reader who told me they don't care about what is being said, only how pretty the words are. Any examples out there?
 

TL Murphy

Met3 Member
Staff member
Chief Mentor
I'm trying to think of a single good/successful novel that prioritized style/voice/aesthetics over substance and having difficulty. I can think of some that are maybe a bit better known for their style/voice/aesthetics than 'what happens', but those tend to be books that still have plenty of substance in other ways (character study, for instance).

Perhaps there are a few on the avant-garde end of the spectrum but doesn't really feel like something that's remotely credible as a path. I have certainly never met a reader who told me they don't care about what is being said, only how pretty the words are. Any examples out there?

The Worm Ouroboros
by E.R. Edison, published in 1922 may fit the bill. Though it is praised as a classic of high fantasy reminiscent of Norse Sagas, the prose is very elaborate and threatens to overtake the content of the novel. Although the prose style is praised by many it is also criticized as overly stylized, lending an illusion of grandeur that is not fully reflected in the story itself, which, though a classic, does not match tales such as Arabian Nights or Lord of the Rings.
 

BornForBurning

Senior Member
If you're inclined to write style-voice-and-aesthetics-over-substance, do it; to hell with anyone who says you can't.
Don't think this works. Style over substance? I don't think it exists. Certainly, there are otherwise banal scripts elevated by stellar execution (Kill Bill is an excellent example.) But KB wouldn't have even been serviceable if the script had just totally sucked in the first place. In the same sense, an otherwise banal plot becomes gripping in the hands of a skilled writer. But you still need those strong bones, otherwise you'll come off as disjointed and incoherent.

sorry for horrific grammar it's late and I'm tired. Someone forced me to watch The Pebble and the Penguin tonight and my brain melted.
 

Tiamat

Patron
I'm trying to think of a single good/successful novel that prioritized style/voice/aesthetics over substance and having difficulty. I can think of some that are maybe a bit better known for their style/voice/aesthetics than 'what happens', but those tend to be books that still have plenty of substance in other ways (character study, for instance).

Perhaps there are a few on the avant-garde end of the spectrum but doesn't really feel like something that's remotely credible as a path. I have certainly never met a reader who told me they don't care about what is being said, only how pretty the words are. Any examples out there?
I think I would argue that McCarthy's "The Road" would not have been as massively successful as it was if he'd chosen the write the same story in a more traditional storytelling voice.
 

EternalGreen

Senior Member
I'm trying to think of a single good/successful novel that prioritized style/voice/aesthetics over substance and having difficulty. I can think of some that are maybe a bit better known for their style/voice/aesthetics than 'what happens', but those tend to be books that still have plenty of substance in other ways (character study, for instance).

Perhaps there are a few on the avant-garde end of the spectrum but doesn't really feel like something that's remotely credible as a path. I have certainly never met a reader who told me they don't care about what is being said, only how pretty the words are. Any examples out there?

Jane Eyre.

Most of what happens is actually quite mundane, but it's told in a way that's gripping. There's more to style, voice and aesthetics than "pretty words" (not to mention to amazing characterizations in the aforementioned book).
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top