Sunday, August 1, 2010

Content or Style?

I'm participating in a bi-weekly writing workshop.  Last time, I read someones short story and had a criticism about the writers style.  Chris has written a story that used both present and past tense.  While I was reading it quickly, I found the first transition clumsy.  This, in turn, gave me the immediate impression of bad writing, even though Chris isn't a bad writer.  To me, it was a perfect example of style with respect to content.

To what effect should a writer use style to enhance the content?

This question has bothered me for a couple of weeks.  I'm a simple guy.  Not necessarily a simple writer, but I like things laid out so that I can read without stopping to parse complicated sentences, or ponder the tense of the writing.  Tell me an interesting story and let the writing tell me in the best way possible.  For me, that's usually a straightforward first or third person, past tense style of writing.  I think there's plenty of flexibility within that structure.  Half a million words in combination should give one a fair degree of creativity.

Some writers get so bogged down with style that they forget that the most important part of the story is the story.  If we all spent a little more time making the action creative and interesting, then maybe we wouldn't think about using style trickery to tell story.  I know I'd be a happier reader.