ARTICLE # 3 - Literary Style

As a writer, you will develop your own unique literary style consistent with, and customized to, your anticipated reading audience’s age group, suited taste, intellect, favored themes, and, in some cases, gender. Style emerges through the integration of your choice in figurative or formality of language, word-choice, sentence structure and syntax that is used to create mood, pace and story intensity. As well, it is reflected in your development of story concept, characters, logistics, plot complexity, action, and story impact. In other words, style is not just what you write; it is the writing technique you use in conveying your story.

As an aspiring author, you must read, read, and read even more since style is never static; it is developed over time and continues to develop by being refined through your continued writing habits and by your reading the works of other authors within your genre. Even established authors continue to refine and grow in the rhythm of their prose and within their mode of deliverance. Your style then becomes your writer’s voice; it’s your unique quality of tone, and your way of turning a phrase in order to relay a story while holding the interest of the reader.

Once your literary work becomes well-read and established, your unique writer’s voice should be recognizable by those familiar with literary prose. It is also important to note that an author may have more than one style of writing. They may write in different types of genres, using fictitious names. Take for example Nora Roberts who writes mystery romances. She is also known under the pen name of J. D. Robb when she writes futuristic suspense, murder mystery-science fictions in a distinctly different voice than Nora Roberts. As well, an author may not choose to use a pseudonym when writing in diverse styles; for example, if they choose to write both intense adult novels as well as write in the contrasting style of children books.

Writing style is divided into four categorical types: Expository, Descriptive, Persuasive, and Narrative. And as a summation of the above paragraphs, literary style is a display of an author’s distinct voice and a means, or tool, used to capture their reading audience. The categories, however, describes the precise purpose of style for which the writer writes. For instance, the writer’s purpose may be to convey how-to information, or perhaps to convince their readers through a persuasive argument or sound reasoning and evidence of facts. Whatever their reason to write, it is important for the writer to recognize their purpose for writing.

The first category is: Expository Style

Expository writing style is the author’s unopinionated sharing of information on a specific topic in order to explain how to do something or how something works or what that specific something can do. Expository is the most common type of writing; it is found in textbooks and in how-to articles such as a Photoshop tutorial, presenting a step-by-step guide. It is also the form used in writing recipes, business documents, technical writing as in drafting technical documents seen in computers or engineering instructional docs, or for chemical and scientific docs.

An example of expository and non-expository style:

Example 1:

There are “Cut-Your-Own” Christmas tree farms in Los Angeles and Orange County, California, were a family can go choose the Christmas tree of their choice and cut it down themselves. The farms locations can be found by using Google with the phrase “cut your own Christmas tree.”

The above expository example is providing information on what is available as well as where and how to find it. It is unopinionated, and only sharing facts. Let’s compare it with the next example.

Example 2:

It is best for a family to go to a “Cut-Your-Own” Christmas tree farm. The children will appreciate a more memorable experience of having a real tree. But, on the other hand, they may also come to realize that cutting a tree down just to decorate and watch it dry out in a few weeks is a wasteful destruction of a life.

This example is none-expository. It may offer some information, but it is also opinionated. The author starts by telling the reader what is best and more memorable for their children, then slams them with quilt for destroying a tree’s life. The style then is persuasive.

The second category is: Descriptive Style

Descriptive writing style usually exploits the reader senses when describing the details of a place, a character, an occurrence, a location, events, or situations. It can be, and usually is, poetic in deliverance rather than a mere account or explanation of what it describes. It is where the writing allows the reader to picture or conceive what the author sees, hears, taste, smells, and/or feels. Descriptive writing can be utilized in fiction novels, nature and adventure journals, and real estate reviews, just to name a few.

Examples of good and poor descriptive writing:

Example 1:

The house sits in a small country neighborhood in South Carolina amongst other small antique houses made of wooden clapboard siding, each with a couple of stately oak trees guarding the front yards. The two story Victorian stands as a white-faced edifice trimmed in soft-blue, and sits before a colorful backdrop of deciduous trees; their leaves lit with the rustic colors of autumn. It welcomes visitors with that down-home feeling when it comes into view. Its steep gable-shingled rooftop sits above the second story’s prairie style windows. That’s with the exception of an adjoining backroom; it presents a steamship round window set above the first floor’s gigantic window shaped like a keyhole. There’s not many of these old Victorian structures left about nowadays with the wooden steps leading up to the front porch, and the welcoming vintage-oak front door.

The above example is a good sample of descriptive writing where you can see the structure fully. If you add a character, let’s say, a veteran returning home, you would then have the opening of a story narrative. For example:

He returns from the war with no one to greet him. But, he knows his way home. Stepping from the bus, he heads down the road, watching his most anticipated structure come into view. The house sits in a small country neighborhood in South Carolina amongst other small antique houses…

This addition of character now gives the reader a feeling of sentiment for the character along with an ample visual of the house. Did you feel disappointed to know that the vet returned home to no one? Are you curious as to why? This sense of disappointment and curiosity pulls you into the story. The style then is narrative.

Example 2:

It is a small, wooden, two-story house in South Carolina. A couple of oak trees stand in the front yard. Not too many more of these small neighborhoods left, beset with such old structures.

This example is poorly presented; a picture poorly painted, especially if it was part of a novel. You wouldn’t have much of an image concept. You would not know or appreciate a downhome feeling for the Victorian architecture; least of all, you wouldn’t feel a welcoming from the location or the home.

The third category is: Persuasive Style

Persuasive writing is where the writer attempts to bring the reader around to his or her point of view. The main purpose is to give reason, argument and/or justification that warrants belief in the judgements and inclinations of the writer. The writer’s view give account for the relevance of an idea or quality or worth of something or someone; or it may be of a population of people or things that the writer is defending or condemning. Persuasive writing is use in commentaries, advertisements, marketing, statements of unsatisfactory or unacceptable situations, or in a letter of grievance or letter of recommendation; it could be an editorial, or cover letter, or even a call-to-action communication where the author takes a stand and hopes that the reader will join in their opinion.

Examples of persuasive and none persuasive style of writing:

Example 1:

You need a vacation. You deserve the best and you deserve to rest. So, get more out of your vacation time by allowing us to book you a worry free, stress free vacation to the islands of Hawaii. Hawaii is an experience you will never forget, offering sun, fun activities, tours, and beautiful beaches. Surf-up! Save on flights and hotels and more. Let us book your dream for the big island vacation by calling today. You can do it – you know you want to, and we’re waiting to help you make that dreams come true. CALL NOW, while a special discount for the Hawaii dream vacation last.

From the above example, and if you had the means, would you be tempted by this AD? Wouldn’t you love to have the advertising agency handle all the arrangements so you can just relax and have fun? This is an example of good persuasive writing.

Example 2:

Hawaii is a good place to vacation. If you like, we can handle your arrangements. Just give us a call.

Do you feel persuaded? You may believe that Hawaii is a good place to visit, but you needn’t call these people to make it happen. Do you? This is a poor example of persuasive writing. Why call this agency when there’s so many others that sound more enthusiastic and appealing?

The forth category is: Narrative Style

Narrative writing tells a story that usually revolves around a plot and contains characters and dialogue. A narrative conveys an account of connected events in novels, short stories, novellas, biographies, autobiographies, anecdotes, histories and poetry. A narrative, or story, should have a beginning and an end; it should comprise a logistic opening, a character or characters, a setting, a plot, conflict and finally, a resolution.

Examples of narrative style and none narrative style of writing:

Example 1:

Even a hermit needs to go to the bathroom now and then, thought Andrew Pearson. He hauled a bucket of tar to the shack that enclosed a septic tank.

Pearson had withdrawn from the rest of society years earlier, and had been happier for it. He would say, “Most people were no damn good. The few that weren’t so bad just weren’t worth the trouble.” He would stay content if he never dealt with another of them until the day he died, alone and quite satisfied.

The rusted hinges on the unpainted door screeched in complaint as he yanked it open. He could see that the tank was so clogged with sewage—his sewage—it was near ready to overflow. “Pretty soon,” he said to himself, “I’m gonna have to have this damned thing pumped out. But, ah hell, I’ll worry about that some other time.”

This is narrative writing; it is telling a story. In this case, an excerpt from Encounter One – STATIC. In your mind’s eye an old, grumpy loner came into view, quarreling with himself over the condition of his septic tank. A narrative takes you forward; it provides you with a sense of curiosity, allowing you to wonder: What happens next?

Example 2:

The garden is a crime scene with the entrance a path across bleached, rectangular and square stones. Mowed, healthy crab-grass grows between each block. Bordering along the path are small, yellow and white flowering bushes. Up ahead, the same dainty flowers stand before Masonry stone pillars topped with Grecian urns, spilling with the overgrowth of purple blossoms. The pillars guard the stone tile steps, leading up to the rough-slab, bleached, stone patio where once cushioned chairs, heavily stained and splattered with a young victim’s blood, has been replace with lightly varnished, wooden benches.

Don’t be confused, the above example is descriptive and could provide a setting in a story. However, in and of itself, it is not a narrative since it presents no plot or characters. It could serve as a flowery report. However, for a story setting, it is a bit old-school and over done for modern day readers who prefer their plots to move faster, especially in a possible murder mystery scene-depictions.


In conclusion, as an aspiring author, know what and why you’re writing and who you’re writing for. In doing so, you will develop your style and writing voice.

So, it’s time once again to put pen to paper and write your story.

C. R. Swainward

#writing #literarystyles #fictionwriting

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