What is my writing style?

Gonna try something different here.  I’ve been challenged by fellow author Jennifer Word.  In her recent blog titled What’s your Writing Style? she gave us a long, detailed look at how she viewed her style.  And then, in the end she said,

“I want to hear from you. I want to hear from other writers, about what you think your main styles are? What are your styles, your tendencies, your chosen settings and scenarios, etc. Do you always set your stories in the same area of the world, or a particular city? Do you focus on only one or two main characters at a time? Do you mainly write romance? Or drama? Or horror? Do you write fiction, or focus on memoir? I’m curious. Do you always use similar themes throughout your tales? Who are your influences, and how did they specifically help to hone your style? I really want to know. And trust me, answering these questions will be really fun for you to do, as a writer. If you haven’t already explored your own work in this way, and tried to dissect yourself and your craft, you should try it. It may be a real eye-opener! I want to hear your answers, fellow scribes!! Get crackin’.
JW”

SO… I’m going to crack.

I’ve been slowly examining and thinking about my work over the past few years, trying to get a grasp on what is typical in my work.  It’s hard to say, but it always helps when someone else comes along and defines it for you.

Here are some things I’ve noticed about my writing (as a whole).

  • I like characterization.  I often zone in on characters, and define them long before I define a plot.  To me, plot is just the thing driving your story from start to finish.  It’s important to get you from Point A to Point B, but it’s not the story.  BUT, that being said, if your characterization is strong enough, plot isn’t even really necessary.  That is, if you can weave in some theme with your character that gives the reader a nice arc.  I do love writing first person perspective, because it allows me to really dive into the emotions, thoughts and feelings of a character.  I’ve utilized this in my novellas Rose’s Thorn and NOIR.  But the big thing, no matter what the perspective, is giving the readers characters they can either love or love to hate, or hate that they love them?
  • I love me some dialogue.  I will often try to have ‘scenes’ of dialogue, where a couple of characters will just exchange dialogue back and forth.  I’ve had it referred to as ‘talking heads’, but I really do like to hear my characters talk.  And for me, in written form, one of the few ways for me to interject humor is through dialogue.  I will often utilize dialogue to get some punchlines in, and thus give the characters some deeper dimensions and also the story as a whole… because it adds contrast.
  • Contrast.  I will often use a technique I call ‘contrast’ in my writing.  You see it a lot in older movies, stuff like Hitchcock films and even a lot of the film noir classics did it.  They’ll be telling some dark, suspenseful, dramatic tale but manage to weave in some humor.  This is one way I’ll sometimes introduce contrast to a story, trying to give it a bigger scale as a story and for the characters especially.  Because lets face it, even if you’re having the worst year of your life, there are still going to be some funny moments along the way.  Not every day of that year is going to be dark, melodramatic and depressing.  Another way contrast can be utilized is to put things that are contrary, or contrasting, to one another.  Like a dangerous man with a gun wearing a T-shirt that says ‘Team Player’ (from my novella The Rolling Stone & Wicked Annabelle); or building tension by using loud, obnoxious rock ‘n’ roll music over a radio as an imminent scene of rape is about to happen (from Orson Welles’ film Touch of Evil).
  • Themes rule the day.  It seems to me that themes rule most of my writing.  Even when the writing seems pretty much like popcorn stuff, I usually still find a way to work in something thought-provoking.  I like how writer/director Paul Haggis put it once, he said that as a writer he didn’t think it was his job to answer questions, but to ask them.  And at most he might provide a slight answer, but it was better to ask questions and let the audience decide the answer after the credits role.  Almost all of my works have strong themes presented:
    • Rose’s Thorn deals a whole lot with child abuse and religious hypocrisy.
    • The Red Balloon deals with the ethics of managerial decisions, and the ramifications those decisions can have on others.
    • Jason Richard Wright deals with one man’s journey from innocence to serial killer, based upon his interactions with others and how their actions affect him.
  • Roads, where we’re going we don’t need roads.  I usually pick one of three methods, it seems.
    • One character.  I’ll focus in on one character, and only be interested in their development.  The story is their story.  Examples include Rose’s Thorn, Jason Richard Wright, NOIR and probably others.
    • Many characters.  I’ll have a whole host of protagonists and antagonists, but try to spend an equal amount of time on almost every character, including the antagonists.  In these stories, I usually try to clearly define both sides of the tracks (heroes and villains), and everyone is flawed.  These are probably the most realistic works, in my mind.  Because in real life even the villains can be nice sometimes, and even the heroes can mess up.  The biggest difference between the two is how they let their life experiences affect them.  Do they let their experiences lead them to good, or bad?  A hero will correct his mistake and do good.  A villain will continue down the path of evil.  Examples of this include Hardboil High (a book series) and Kings (a film trilogy).
    • BUT, the key about both of these methods is all the things above (Characterization, Dialogue, Contrast, and Theme).

And it seems no matter what I’m writing, be it science fiction, crime, mystery, adventure, fantasy, horror, or whatever.  These items always seem to be present.  They seem to be the common aspects of my writing, so I guess, my style.

One reader described my writing this way,

“Nathan has a way of taking the normal and making it into a situation where you wonder how you got there. He uses his words to paint a vivid story.”

But what say ye, Reader?  I’m curious, if you’ve been reading my work, how would you describe it?  And if you’re a writer, I suggest you take the challenge too.


Below is a scene from Pulp Fiction, which really illustrates the idea of using contrast to build characters or give a bigger scope to a story.  In this scene, John Travolta dances with his mob boss’s girl played by Uma Thurman.  How is this contrast?  Travolta’s character is very a violent and vulgar character, who works for organized crime, and Thurman’s character is with a mob boss.  AND yet, here they are taking time away from these dark elements to dance an innocent, non-sexual routine to an old Chuck Berry song.  And then, immediately following this scene, Thurman’s character hocks up some drugs.  That, my friend, is contrast, which allowed us a chance to see the characters in a better light for a moment.  Enjoy.

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4 thoughts on “What is my writing style?

  1. Very nice, Nathan. You see?? It's fun to truly look into our own styles, isn't it? To define them, see our strengths, and identify what we keep returning to again and again. Knowing one's own tendencies helps to truly SEE that we do have a style and that we are claiming the craft for ourselves.

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  2. Indeed. It's hard to really judge what your good at, where your tendencies lie and such, unless you have a large body of work to look over. If you would have asked me this question four or five years ago, I don't know if I would have been able to answer it. But now, having so much more material, I can see the patterns.

    But what say you? Have you read enough of my work to give me a description?

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  3. I do feel I write just in the same style using the same technique, maybe with a bit more emphasis on the actually storyline/plot, but the main character and her/his reasons for his actions do have to grab my attention even before I start thinking about the bigger picture.
    Here's my blog, I say we're very similar. http://laemonie.wordpress.com/

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  4. Yeah, I was pretty hard on plot in this. But that's also because I tend to view plot as the simple 'Beginning to B to C to D to Climax to E to F to G to Resolution'. To me it's just the ladder, and it's not really the story. Storytelling is the sum of all the elements, in my mind (characters, plot, conflict, dialogue, theme, etc). So that's why I tend to view plot as just the frame, and not really emotionally important. It's the 'how did I get here' and it make sense element.

    But all that being said, I typically like to take my readers to destinations they don't expect. And to do that, you have to be able to utilize plot well, and have it make sense with everything else you're doing (characterization, for example). But even if I have a 'I never saw that coming' ending, or what not, it would be pretty worthless to me if all the other elements weren't satisfied.

    I've checked out your links earlier in the week, but I don't think I subscribed to any, so I'm glad you posted your link. By the way your font and color scheme on 'THE VERTIGO SHOT' totally reminds me of my all-time favorite film, Alfred Hitchcock's 'Vertigo'. Great, great movie. Awesome characters, awesome storytelling, plot, cinematography, editing, score… everything comes together so well in that movie. Whew… any rate…

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