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Style
In creative writing
Style. ENGL 151L 1
3 impressionist paintings
Style. ENGL 151L 2
of the samething - boats
Style. ENGL 151L 3
But so very different
because of . ..
Style. ENGL 151L 4
The painters made
different style choices:
different brush strokes,
colors,textures …
STYLE STYLE
Style. ENGL 151L 5
…different
perspectives. These
boats are seen from
above.
Style. ENGL 151L 6
And those different style choices create diff...
But this painting uses a very different style that creates a
heavier feeling. It might even be a different season of the
y...
In creativewriting,style
is the writer’sstamp. It
gives the piecea voice
readerscan hear and
relateto. It helps set the
to...
 The choice of words:
• casual vs formal (or colloquial vs “standard” English)
• concrete vs abstract
• usual vs unusual ...
Analyzing style in a short passage
I keep Raymond on the
inside of me and he
plays like he’s driving a
stage coach which i...
More about WORD CHOICE
(diction)
•casual vs formal
•concrete vs abstract
•usual vs unusual (or prosaic vs poetic)
Style. E...
As with colors, there is a range of word choices
Style. ENGL 151L 12
Home
Crib
Pad
Place
House
Residence
Dwelling
Abode
And each choice comes with
a certain style and tone
Home– Warm feeling.Home is where theheart is.“There’sno place like
hom...
What’sup, hi,heythere,greetings,peace,peace beuntoyou
Seeya, so long,bye, goodbye,live long&prosper
Walk,takea walk,str...
Word choices range between the
1) Casual and Formal
Style. ENGL 151L 15
Changing Updike’s Diction in “A & P”
from very casual to formal
In walks these three girls in bathing suits.
The diction, ...
2) The ConcreteandAbstract
Style. ENGL 151L 17
The Gleaners by Jean Francois Millet Farmers At Work by Georges
Seurat
Concrete to Abstract Words
Story tellers tend to use concrete words to create a real-feelingworld
Concrete and specific
Re...
Good writingis oftenvery specificand concrete.
I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not
to the swift, nor th...
and 3) The Usual vs the Unusual
(or Prosaicand Poetic)
Prosaic: Common speech, usual, every day, ordinary
Poetic: Elevated...
Cormac McCarthy (author of No Country for Old
Men) is know for unusual, poetic word choices
Schmoop has a brief analysis o...
More about WORD ORDER
(Syntax)
•casual vs formal
•expected vs surprising
•usual vs unusual
Style. ENGL 151L 22
Changing Updike’s Synyax in “A & P”
from slightly unusual to usual
In walks these three girls in bathing suits.
“In walks”...
Another youthful main character speaks with
style, from the classic To Kill a Mockingbird
Style
Scout’s word choice and wo...
Eloquent you have become:
How changingword order adds emphasis and grace
Don’t ask what your country
can do for you…
I’ll ...
Syntax isn’t just about style. It’s about grammar too. Wrong
word order results in wrong meaning. Keep related words
toget...
SENTENCE STRUCTURE
•short vs long (or simple vs complex)
•mainly the same vs much variety
Style. ENGL 151L 27
Short sentences and stacked sentences
Short & Simple - One independent clause
• I do not dance on my toes. I run. (Raymon...
A very compound sentence
Some authors like to
stack three or more
clauses into one
sentence, all joined by
and. Hemingway ...
 Complex sentences
A complex sentence combines simple independent clauses with dependent clauses. A
dependent clause is j...
Complex sentences create exciting action
They were yelling at us to break it up and
Tatlock spun me half around with a blo...
Complex sentences can also paint a busy,
cluttered scene. Is this a style you like?
They set forward; and, with a grandeur...
This is ONE long complex sentence
with joining words underlined
So I’m strolling down Broadway breathing out and breathing...
Short sentences right after long
pack a punch
From the opening of “Saving Sourdi”
Once, when my older
sister, Sourdi, and ...
Watch what the very short sentence
does here in “Raymond’s Run”
I was once a strawberry in a Hansel and Gretel
pageant whe...
Insert your favorite writer here
Send me a passage by a writer whose style you
like. Say a bit about what you like, using ...
You are a Writer
What is your writing style? Are you aware of it? Or are you like a
fashion-illiterate friend who shows up...
Pieces used in this lecture
Raymond’s Run, Week 1
A & P, Week 2
The Road, not assigned
Battle Royal, Week 3 (probably adva...
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Style in Creative Writing

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A presentation on style in creative writing with a focus on Syntax, Diction & Sentence Structure, with key examples from Toni Cade Bambara's story "Raymond's Run." Other examples from A & P, The Road, Battle Royal, A Good Man is Hard to Find, Lust, Miss Brill, Saving Sourdi and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey

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Style in Creative Writing

  1. 1. Style In creative writing Style. ENGL 151L 1
  2. 2. 3 impressionist paintings Style. ENGL 151L 2
  3. 3. of the samething - boats Style. ENGL 151L 3
  4. 4. But so very different because of . .. Style. ENGL 151L 4
  5. 5. The painters made different style choices: different brush strokes, colors,textures … STYLE STYLE Style. ENGL 151L 5
  6. 6. …different perspectives. These boats are seen from above. Style. ENGL 151L 6 And those different style choices create different feelings. This painting of boats feels summery,fun, upbeat, playful – right?
  7. 7. But this painting uses a very different style that creates a heavier feeling. It might even be a different season of the year. Style. ENGL 151L 7
  8. 8. In creativewriting,style is the writer’sstamp. It gives the piecea voice readerscan hear and relateto. It helps set the tone. And in fiction as in life, the style of someone’s speechreveals what kind of person they are (known as characterization). I keep Raymond on the inside of me and he plays like he’s driving a stage coach which is OK by me so long as he doesn’t run me over or interrupt my breathing exercises, which I have to do on account of I’m serious about my running, and I don’t care who knows it. Do you hear a voice? Canyou guess theage? Feelthe attitude? From Raymond’s Run by Toni Cade Bambara Style. ENGL 151L 8
  9. 9.  The choice of words: • casual vs formal (or colloquial vs “standard” English) • concrete vs abstract • usual vs unusual (or conversational vs poetic)  The order of the words: • casual vs formal • expected vs surprising • usual vs unusual  The Sentences: • short vs long (or simple vs complex) • mainly the same vs much variety Style. ENGL 151L 9 Style is based on the Words (diction), the Word Order(syntax) andthe Sentences
  10. 10. Analyzing style in a short passage I keep Raymond on the inside of me and he plays like he’s driving a stage coach which is OK by me so long as he doesn’t run me over or interrupt my breathing exercises, which I have to do on account of I’m serious about my running, and I don’t care who knows it.  The choice of words: Some dialect, “on account of.” Mostly plain language (fits her age). Poetic in spots, as when describing her feeling before & during races (p. 5). = believable quippy kid  The order of the words: Follows grammar rules. In spots is more unusual: “There is no track meet that I don’t win the first-place medal.” = Strong voice, confident.  The Sentences: One long sentence. Breathless, fast. The story has many long sentences, some short. Good variety. Changes up pace. = The feel of a real person thinking & figuring stuff out. Style. ENGL 151L 10
  11. 11. More about WORD CHOICE (diction) •casual vs formal •concrete vs abstract •usual vs unusual (or prosaic vs poetic) Style. ENGL 151L 11
  12. 12. As with colors, there is a range of word choices Style. ENGL 151L 12 Home Crib Pad Place House Residence Dwelling Abode
  13. 13. And each choice comes with a certain style and tone Home– Warm feeling.Home is where theheart is.“There’sno place like home,there’snoplacelikehome..” House– Coldimpersonalfeeling.A newhouse on the block. Crib– Modern, hip, youthful.“Now thiscrib's abouttokickoff,this party looks wack.” Pad– Once modern,beatnikthenhippie.“Let’sgo backtomy pad.” Place –Neutralfeelingand casual.“Niceplace you got here.” Residence–Neutralfeelingand formal.Officiallanguage.“Stateyour residence.” Abode– Fancy, poeticdiction.Pretentious?“Welcometomy humble abode.”(But haha not a humblewordchoice) Style. ENGL 151L 13
  14. 14. What’sup, hi,heythere,greetings,peace,peace beuntoyou Seeya, so long,bye, goodbye,live long&prosper Walk,takea walk,stroll,meander,perambulate Leave,split,takeoff,flythecoop, decamp,absquatulate(yes, that’sa word) Style. ENGL 151L 14 Writers choose words thatfit their purpose, justas you choose clothes thatfittheoccasion . . .
  15. 15. Word choices range between the 1) Casual and Formal Style. ENGL 151L 15
  16. 16. Changing Updike’s Diction in “A & P” from very casual to formal In walks these three girls in bathing suits. The diction, or choice of words, adds to the casual feeling created by the syntax. More dressed-up would be: Three girls in bathing suits entered. Changes the tone. But that “in” is still fairly casual. So how about: Three girls wearing bathing suits entered. Or we could go fully formal: Three young women wearing bathing attire entered. Now we have completely lost Sammy’s adolescent voice. Different story entirely. Style. ENGL 151L 16
  17. 17. 2) The ConcreteandAbstract Style. ENGL 151L 17 The Gleaners by Jean Francois Millet Farmers At Work by Georges Seurat
  18. 18. Concrete to Abstract Words Story tellers tend to use concrete words to create a real-feelingworld Concrete and specific RedHonda witha dented bumper Rhododendron Ride the ellipticalfor 20 minutes Square piece of old parchment Abstract and vague Damagedcompact car Bush Exercise a while Paper Style. ENGL 151L 18
  19. 19. Good writingis oftenvery specificand concrete. I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. From Ecclesiastes To show how empty bad writing can be, George Orwell translated that beautiful Biblical passage into abstract, bureaucratic English: Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account. Style. ENGL 151L 19
  20. 20. and 3) The Usual vs the Unusual (or Prosaicand Poetic) Prosaic: Common speech, usual, every day, ordinary Poetic: Elevated speech, special occasion, unusual, using metaphor, alliteration, images, rhythm and meter Usual: The sun went down. A bit poetic: The sun dropped below the horizon. A tad more unusual: The golden orb of the sun sank from sight. Full on poetic: The fiery chariot achieved its destination at long last and moved beyond the grasp of human vision. Style. ENGL 151L 20
  21. 21. Cormac McCarthy (author of No Country for Old Men) is know for unusual, poetic word choices Schmoop has a brief analysis of McCarthy’s diction here. They quote this stunning passage from The Road. I’ve underlined unusual word choices. We see hard words and also common words used in uncommon ways: He rose and stood tottering in that cold autistic dark with his arms outheld for balance while the vestibular calculations in his skull cranked out their reckonings. An old chronicle. To seek out the upright. No fall but preceded by a declination. [< 3 sentence fragments] He took great marching steps into the nothingness, counting them against his return. Eyes closed, arms oaring. Upright to what? Something nameless in the night, lode or matrix. To which he and the stars were common satellite. Like the great pendulum in its rotunda scribing through the long day movements of the universe of which you may say it knows nothing and yet know it must. For up to 10 bonus points send an email explaining how the verbs “oaring” or “scribing” are used here. Hint: they are implied metaphors. See next week’s lecture about figures of speech for help with that. Style. ENGL 151L 21
  22. 22. More about WORD ORDER (Syntax) •casual vs formal •expected vs surprising •usual vs unusual Style. ENGL 151L 22
  23. 23. Changing Updike’s Synyax in “A & P” from slightly unusual to usual In walks these three girls in bathing suits. “In walks” is a very casual opening with a lot of voice. The voice is created by the unusual word order. More usual would be Three girls in bathing suits walked in. Right? As with “Raymond’s Run,” the non-standard style choice helps us hear a real voice and get to know the character, Sammy. With a 1st person “I” story, style is more important. There is no 3rd person narrator to tell us what sort of person the main character is. We have to feel it by the way they talk. Style. ENGL 151L 23
  24. 24. Another youthful main character speaks with style, from the classic To Kill a Mockingbird Style Scout’s word choice and word order are distinct, creating a strong, real-sounding voice Ain’t everybody’s daddy the deadest shot in Macomb County. No style “Standard” formal English loses that voice Not everyone’s father is the best shot in Macomb County. Style. ENGL 151L 24
  25. 25. Eloquent you have become: How changingword order adds emphasis and grace Don’t ask what your country can do for you… I’ll go where you go The sailor is home He who loves everything large and small prays better You have become powerful. I sense the dark side in you. Up to 20 Bonus Opp: Go to 3 links here from the right side, find a memorable quote in each, explain how the diction adds force. Email in quotes & explanation. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you… Where you go, I will go Home is the sailor He prayeth best, who loveth best All things both great and small Powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you. Style. ENGL 151L 25
  26. 26. Syntax isn’t just about style. It’s about grammar too. Wrong word order results in wrong meaning. Keep related words together. Say what you meant to say. I will call my mother in Costa Rica and tell her all about Marcel taking me out to dinner for just two dollars. Oops. Will your mother like this cheap guy? Is that what you meant? Or did you mean: For just two dollars, I can call my mother in Costa Rica and tell her all about Marcel taking me out to dinner. Oh…cheap phone card. He found only one good sale at the outlet. < fact, implying many good sales were expected. Not a great outlet. He only found one good sale… < same fact but possible critical tone (he’s not the best shopper) Only he found a good sale... < different fact: no one else found any good sales; he’s an amazing shopper! Which did you mean?Style. ENGL 151L 26
  27. 27. SENTENCE STRUCTURE •short vs long (or simple vs complex) •mainly the same vs much variety Style. ENGL 151L 27
  28. 28. Short sentences and stacked sentences Short & Simple - One independent clause • I do not dance on my toes. I run. (Raymond’s Run) • In walks these three girls in bathing suits. (A & P) • It was in the main ballroom of the leading hotel. (Battle Royal) • The grandmother had the peculiar feeling that the bespectacled man was someone she knew. (A Good Man is Hard to Find) Compound–Two or more simples sentences stacked up (joined by andor but) • Then the second-graders line up and I don’t even bother to watch because Raphael Perez always wins. (Raymond’s Run) • All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I looked someone tried to tell me what it was. (Battle Royal) • His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother’s head cleared for an instant. (A Good Man is Hard to Find) Style. ENGL 151L 28
  29. 29. A very compound sentence Some authors like to stack three or more clauses into one sentence, all joined by and. Hemingway was known for this, and here Susan Minot stacks up simple clauses to create an effect in “Lust” (274). We started off at the end of the couch and then our feet were squished against the armrest and then he went over and turned off the TV and came back after he had taken off his shirt and then we slid onto the floor and he got up again to close the door, then came back to me, a body waiting on the rug. Style. ENGL 151L 29
  30. 30.  Complex sentences A complex sentence combines simple independent clauses with dependent clauses. A dependent clause is just a group of words that can’t stand alone, such as this. Complex sentences need joining words to add on those dependent clauses: but, because, since, after, while, although, when, that, who, which. Some clauses interrupt the sentence and are separated by dashes – like this – or commas, in this way, or (sometimes) parenthesis. • Although we went to the park, it wasn’t windy enough to fly our kites, which was disappointing – very disappointing – because we had to go back to the city the very next day. •Although it was so brilliantly fine – the blue sky powdered with gold and great spots of light like white wine splashed over the Jardins Publiques – Miss Brill was glad that she had decided on her fur. •Once, when my older sister, Sourdi, and I were working alone in our family restaurant, just the two of us and the elderly cook, some men got drunk and I stabbed one of them. Style. ENGL 151L 30
  31. 31. Complex sentences create exciting action They were yelling at us to break it up and Tatlock spun me half around with a blow, and as a joggled camera sweeps a reeling scene, I saw the howling red faces crouching tense beneath the cloud of blue-grey smoke. From “Battle Royal” by Ralph Ellison For up to 10 bonus points, write a complex sentence about an intense physical experience you have had. Write in a style that recreates the intensity. And if you can fit in a simile like this one, “and as a joggled camera sweeps a reeling scene” all the better. Style. ENGL 151L 31
  32. 32. Complex sentences can also paint a busy, cluttered scene. Is this a style you like? They set forward; and, with a grandeur of air, a dignified step, which caught the eye, but could not shake the doubts of the well-read Catherine, he led the way across the hall, through the common drawing-room and one useless antechamber, into a room magnificent both in size and furniture -– the real drawing- room, used only with company of consequence. It was very noble -– very grand -– very charming! -– was all that Catherine had to say, for her indiscriminating eye scarcely discerned the colour of the satin; and all minuteness of praise, all praise that had much meaning, was supplied by the general: the costliness or elegance of any room’s fitting-up could be nothing to her; she cared for no furniture of a more modern date than the fifteenth century. From Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey Style. ENGL 151L 32
  33. 33. This is ONE long complex sentence with joining words underlined So I’m strolling down Broadway breathing out and breathing in on counts of seven, which is my lucky number, and here comes Gretchen and her sidekicks: Mary Louise, who used to be a friend of mine when she first moved to Harlem from Baltimore and got beat up by everybody till I took up for her on account of her mother and my mother used to sing in the same choir when they were young girls, but people ain’t grateful, so now she hangs out with the new girl Gretchen and talks about me like a dog; and Rosie, who is as fat as I am skinny and has a big mouth where Raymond is concerned and is too stupid to know that there is not a big deal of difference between herself and Raymond and that she can’t afford to throw stones. (Bambara 2) Bambara’s word choice and word order are fairly casual and expected, but her sentences are mad complex. They build momentum and convey thought, which is rapid and many layered. Style. ENGL 151L 33
  34. 34. Short sentences right after long pack a punch From the opening of “Saving Sourdi” Once, when my older sister, Sourdi, and I were working alone in our family restaurant, just the two of us and the elderly cook, some men got drunk and I stabbed one of them. I was eleven. !!! Wow, eleven. That fact hits hard. From the end of “Miss Brill” But Today she passed the baker’s by, climbed the stairs, went into the little dark room – her room like a cupboard – and sat down on the red eiderdown. She sat there for a long time. Aw, how sad. The tone shifts with that short sentence, doesn’t it? Style. ENGL 151L 34
  35. 35. Watch what the very short sentence does here in “Raymond’s Run” I was once a strawberry in a Hansel and Gretel pageant when I was in nursery school and didn’t have no better sense than to dance on tiptoe with my arms in a circle over my head doing umbrella steps and being a perfect fool just so my mother and father could come dressed up and clap (57 words!) You’d think they’d know better than to encourage that kind of nonsense (12). I am not a strawberry (5). I do not dance on my toes (7). I run (2 words!). That is what I am all about (7). Indeed! We see that, Ms. Hazel Elizabeth Deborah Parker. Running sure is what you are all about. Style. ENGL 151L 35
  36. 36. Insert your favorite writer here Send me a passage by a writer whose style you like. Say a bit about what you like, using terms from this lecture, for up to 20 Bonus Points. That 1/5 of a whole essay! And I may use it in next semester’s lecture. So more people meet the style you like. Style. ENGL 151L 36
  37. 37. You are a Writer What is your writing style? Are you aware of it? Or are you like a fashion-illiterate friend who shows up for a wedding in jeans and sneakers or a backyard BBQ in a business suit? Can you change your style for different audiences – BFF vs grandma? And for different purposes – Cover letter applying for a position you really want vs a memo to a co-worker who never reads their memos? Notice your style choices and take charge of your writing style. Then you can choose the best fit for every audience and purpose you encounter. Style. ENGL 151L 37
  38. 38. Pieces used in this lecture Raymond’s Run, Week 1 A & P, Week 2 The Road, not assigned Battle Royal, Week 3 (probably advanced optional) A Good Man is Hard to Find, Week 4 Lust, assigned last semester, maybe this one Miss Brill, Week 7 Saving Sourdi Week 7 Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey not assigned Style. ENGL 151L 38

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