Not everyone loves a cheeseburger
We write because we must. It’s a passion, or some might say, a calling. Which ever it is, it’s ever present. Once you understand how to use the nuts and bolts of structure and have a killer idea with compelling characters, what’s next?
For me it’s finding my voice, my style. Often that style depends on the type of story I’m telling. I wouldn’t approach a romance novel in the same way I’d write a thriller. My readers wouldn’t allow it. And frankly, I wouldn’t have a clue how to write romance. So, I don’t.
What I write is what interests me. I like thrillers, horror, and oddly enough, historical fiction. Each of these requires a different style, a certain pace, and different word choices.
Thrillers move quickly with tension around every corner. Gabriel’s Rule is filled with intentional tension. So I used words that build on that. Since Gabriel is a master assassin I took my time describing his tools of the trade. The story is full of bad people doing bad things. Gabriel’s Rule was written before the John Wick stories. Both are bad ass men with a cold and calculating demeanor. Their thoughts, speech and actions are crisp and to the point. Their motivations are different, but the results are similar. For such a story I didn’t employ flowery descriptions. I tried to find Gabriel’s humanity in righting the wrongs done by powerful people in powerful positions.
My next stories were horror. Why? Because I like horror stories. Hideous revolves around a troubled, talented woman. Her life is a living hell caused by her own horrible mistakes. Hideous required a different style, a slower pace, more introspective. Being so, I was able to choose words and phrases that delved deeper into her pain and her need for redemption. Her quest to expose the secrets of a dead town and the monsters hidden within is her ultimate salvation. The style of the story was more deliberate, the pace a little slower.
With Haunting Amanda I chose as my protagonist a troubled woman. Seems to be a recurring theme. (I’ll have to look closer at that.) Never-the-less, she was a treasure of fears, misgivings and revelations. I chose a style that was harder. After all I was dealing with characters who see the world in hard dollars and cents. I didn’t mince thoughts of the obesity of wealth. I think I conveyed this with their world view of opulence over all else. And at the same time gave my protagonist the ability to change through love and forgiveness. This allowed me a bit more latitude with words and phrases.
The story I’m struggling with at the present is an adaptation of my award winning screenplay, The Sun Also Sets. This is unlike anything I’ve ever written before. A historical drama of two men, of completely divergent backgrounds, who, in the twilight of their lives develop a most unlikely friendship. Based on the true story of my grandfather and his relationship with Ernest Hemingway. Taking place in 1961, in a small town in Idaho, the story’s pace is pedestrian. I’d say slow, but pedestrian means they are moving in a direction. The setting of the story, the lush landscape of Sun Valley, forms the third character. Like most things in nature it is rarely in a rush. I’m taking my time with each character, hoping the reader will better understand why each of them see the world as they do. Because the pacing is slower I have more time to draw a picture of the inner turmoil of the characters contrasted to the beauty of the world surrounding them.
Personally, my style is altered by the type of story I’m working on. No matter the genre of the story, I always strive for less is more. Each sentence should be as succinct as possible. At times that is harder than it looks. I started writing poetry. I’ve admitted in previous blogs that I wasn’t very good at the art. But I refuse to give up my love of alliteration. Like a good song the right words in the right place can have a rhythm. During my research for The Sun Also Sets I felt it was my responsibility to re-read many of Hemingway’s stories. I loved his efficiency with words, but found his style a bit shallow. He came to writing with a reporters eyes. I came to writing through the eyes of
a poet. Each approach is unique.
If I were to give ten writers a brief outline of a story and send them off to create, ten different versions would come back. We each bring our own experiences to the work. What we like and don’t like. What words capture our attention and what don’t. Just as each person is unique in their view of the world, so is the way they express that view. I’ll finish with this; find what stirs you, find a way to communicate it with your readers. Some will love it, some won’t. And that’s ok. Not everyone loves a cheeseburger.
Thanks for reading. Here’s to the road ahead.