A Word on Style

Hi All:

I thought I’d talk about writing style today, both in general and my own specifically.

Now, every writer has his or her own ‘style’. Some, like C.S. Lewis, are quite simple and stripped-down. He leaves a lot of the details blank to allow readers to fill them in with their own imaginations.

Others, like J.R.R. Tolkien, describe every rock and tree in excruciating detail. You don’t need to imagine anything because he tells you literally everything.

I like to think that I’m somewhere in the middle. My stories are fairly simple, plot-wise. I like a few twists and turns but my heroes usually start over here and end up over there in a somewhat linear way. I like to read stories like that, so I tend to structure mine in the same style.

I’ve read all of the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series by George R.R. Martin. His world is rich and thick and, frankly, I tend to choke on so many plot threads. Plus, to be honest, never has a series of books left me so frustrated and downright angry than those have.

Really, George? Having me invest hours and hours of time following beloved characters just to kill them all off? Nice. No, painful actually.

But that works for Martin. It doesn’t work for me. Yes, I’ve killed off a few minor players in my novels. But I consider their deaths carefully before they happen and I agonize over each and every one. None of their lives are throwaway to me. And I can assure my readers that I will never kill off a main character just for shock value. I find that to be crude and manipulative. But hey, I’m not Mr. Martin.

At any rate, I’ve had readers call my style everything from ‘readable’ to ‘overly simplistic’ and everything in between. (I find someone saying my writing is very readable to be an immense compliment, by the way.)

But with my new series: Tales from the New Earth, my style had begun to change somewhat, especially since Book 1. It has to. Epic fantasy is, by definition, more layered than straight-up fantasy. More plot lines have started to weave themselves into the story simply because my world is larger. Indeed, it is a global landscape. not simply a local one and I’ve had to broaden my canvas.

I must admit that it is invigorating to adjust my writing in this way. I am no longer confined by the smaller scope of my earlier works, although the third book in ‘The Titan’s Legacy’ series has become something of a globe-trotting adventure.

My New Earth is bursting with potential. Simon O’Toole, my hero, is that small pebble that can stop the grinding gears of a huge machine. But, oh my, that machine is large. The future of the series is laid out ahead of me in a vast landscape and I’m relishing the books to come.

All of this post is basically to say that writing styles can change. In fact, for a writer who wants to keep producing entertaining and fresh works, they have to. A formulaic writer, like Dan Brown, can keep people interested with his ‘kill someone in the first chapter and then spend the rest of the novel figuring out who and why’. But eventually it all starts to feel the same. And that feels stagnant to me.

So, for those who are looking forward to the next books in ‘The Tales from the New Earth’ series, prepare for some larger plot lines and a lot of surprises. I hope to take Simon on a world-changing adventure and I intend for it to be a wild ride.

J.J.