Don’t get me wrong. Elvis did have it for a while.
But let me make it clear, I’m talking about black-motorcycle-leathers-wearing Elvis, not bloated Las Vegas-white-sequinned-pant-suited Elvis.
So what is it again? I hear you ask.
Style. And it is the true King! Just ask any good writer worthy of their moniker.
But why do I think that?
Ok, just let me explain.
Recently, I’ve joined a few on-line professional blog-writing communities. You know, to try and hone my writing chops, you might say. Anyway, at one particular site called Helium, you are expected to rate other people’s blog articles against each other, as a kind of anonymous peer-review type process.
And, so far, what has struck me, more than anything else, is that good writing pretty much boils down to one thing: style. It doesn’t matter what the article I’m being asked to review is about, if it’s clunky to read I usually end up marking it down.
By the same token, though, if the article’s prose reads well I tend to rate it more highly.
A case in point was a Helium article I found myself reading just yesterday called Tips for reducing bust size appearance. Now, notwithstanding the fact that as a man the word breast holds a special power over me, this article really shouldn’t have been of much interest to me. But because the style in which it was written was engaging I kept on reading it anyway.
The same holds true for creative writing. Your story might have the most amazing plot twists since The Sixth Sense and the most compelling characters ever to exist outside of a Tolstoy novel, but if your style sucks…forget it, Honey! Sorry, I’ll have stopped reading after the first two or three paragraphs.
So what makes for a good writing style?
Answer: In a word (or five) — having a way with words. Although word choice, word arrangement and the words “hard work”, probably answers the question best.
I for one absolutely love what Winston Churchill is quoted as saying about word choice, in particular:
Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all.
Sir Winston Churchill
Anyway, Tredinnick explains that the short, old words Churchill was referring to are words like hill, bird, sky, hunt, tree, kill, sun etc. Words that, to my mind, hold some special sort of primal power. They were the very first words of our language. And (believe me) they will be just as fresh and full of meaning at the end.
As for word arrangement, George Orwell, I believe, is the out-right authority on the subject. His Politics and the English Language is an absolute master class in writing for aspiring writers, of whatever bent. To quote his essay briefly he contended that:
“…prose consists less and less of WORDS chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of PHRASES tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.”
Just read it. If only to understand why such terms as friendly-fire are an abomination.
Finally, though, as to the words “hard work”. Well, you don’t have to be an Einstein to know (in the words of Thomas Edison) that, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration“. You know what? You’ve got to sweat over it. And you’ve got to keep working at it, every day!
So why don’t you come and join me at Helium (where I go by the name Hadiran Brand, don’t ask!) or join one of the other many writing communities out there.
Move over Elvis, the new King is style…
I’m just a hunk, a hunk of burnin’ love
Just a-hunk, a-hunk o’ burnin’ lo-ve!