Saturday, September 05, 2009

Searching for Style

I've been pondering lately what writing style I want to settle on and cultivate as my own. The style and tone of my books seems to change every time, and I know part of that is just maturing and growing as a writer, but I think it's time to aim for consistency.

But when I think about the authors I read that have multiple stand-alone books, I notice that, because their style is consistent, their books all "read" the same. In a series this would make sense--the same characters, the same voices, etc. But when the characters change, shouldn't the tone of the book as well?

A good example is Jodi Picoult. I love her books. I aspire to her level of plot and character development and use of figurative language. But it dawned on me after reading her most recent book that every character is eloquent, both in spoken word and thought, and that every book is written in the same style. There's almost always a major twist at the very end, when there's just a page or two left and you don't think she can possibly cram any more plot in there. There's almost always a marriage on the rocks in one way or another. There's almost always courtroom drama. There's always a plethora of well-crafted metaphors and similes sprinkled throughout the tight, crafted-within-an-inch-of-its-life-but-it-doesn't-read-that-way narrative. And, as I read this last book of hers, I found myself getting bored with it. I'm sorry, but 13-year-olds aren't that insightful or articulate. Mothers who are short on sleep and stressed to the nth degree aren't that coherent. And the ending? It didn't surprise me one iota, because I knew before I even loaded the book onto my Sony eReader that something tragic was going to happen at the very last second. No tears from me this time. In fact, I felt a little irritated, because I felt like she was trying to manipulate my emotions.

So, in light of that, I wonder if I ought to try to settle on one style or not. Maybe my "style" is that every book feels different, sounds different. My question to those of you who read authors who write stand-alones: do you notice a similarity between them? Does it make the books feel the same to you, or am I particularly sensitive (or is it picky?)? If an author's books didn't exhibit a consistent style, would you notice? Would you care?

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