Posted by: nancycurteman | August 16, 2012

Literary Style: What’s That?

Bookmark and Share

Literary style: What’s that? Simply stated, it’s the way an author chooses to write for her audience. It’s her method of personal expression. It reveals both the writer’s personality and voice. A writer may use more than one literary style. In determining her literary style for a given piece, a writer needs to consider her audience and whether her goal is to inform or entertain or both.

Many elements in a piece of fiction reveal an author’s literary style:

• Choice of words and their arrangement in sentences. Does an author favor simple words or big complex words? Does she prefer passive or active voice? Does she place the critical words at the beginning or end of a paragraph? An author may use words for their literal meaning (specific, concrete meaning) or for their associative meanings (figurative images, similes, metaphors, figures of speech).

• Use of associative words is a useful literary style in fiction. For example “dog” and “mongrel” convey very different images. “Pig” can be an animal or a greedy person. Similes and metaphors can convey clear images for a reader.

• Pace is another strategy for creating literary style. In depth descriptive passages or fast action sentences are style choices an author can make. Many authors rely on dialog to move their stories forward.

• Tone is an element of literary style. Witty humor, sarcasm, pessimism, optimism, romanticism can all be expressed in the manner in which a piece is written.

• Use of word sounds and rhythms connote style. Here are a few examples. Alliteration: Put a better bit of butter on your bread. Assonance: The blue balloon flew into the school. Onomatopoeic words like boing, ding, buzz, fizz, meow, woof.

An author’s literary style stems from her choices based on her purpose for writing a given piece. What’s neat is the huge variety of choices available to her.

More on Literary Style:

What is Literary Style? 


  1. i am enjoying a couple of books by Sarah Waters right now and enjoying her style of writing. The little Stranger,placed in the 1940’s but very gothic style. was good but I’m quite enjoying Fingersmith, an unexpected Dickens era book full of cons, crooks etc and an unusual relationship or two…..the two different characters perspectives on what is going on is very interesting…an adult read, somewhat out of my usual selection…guess i can handle it at the tender age of 58 .


    • Both these Waters books sound interesting. Are they available on Amazon in ebook format? I’ll check them out. Oh, and at 58 you haven’t quite reached middle age yet.


  2. Thanks for writing about style. After writing both nonfiction and fiction, I find I shift styles to fit my audience. Getting back to my novel in progress has been most challenging (for the 9 to 12 reader) because I jumped into short mystery stories for adults. I felt I needed to gather publishing credits in fiction.

    Short fiction seems to help writers develop readership. How did you develop a readership for your mysteries? And what do you continue to write (besides this blog) to pull in more readers?


    • You are absolutely right. Style is a function of genre and audience. You wouldn’t use the same style for a kids book as you would for a piece of adult fiction. Interesting point about short mystery stories. I think it would be quite a challenge to write short mysteries. So difficult to fit everything into a short story. I develop readership for my mysteries through social media like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin. I also try to do author events. I review books for other authors and hope they will review mine. I try to be active on Goodreads. I carry a few books in my trunk so I can sell them when the opportunity arrises. I also distribute books marks. I should do a blog post on this. What do you think?


      • Yes, please Nancy. I would love to read all the ways you build readership and buyers for your books. I’m also curious if when you review books do you connect with the authors first? I find that if I love a book I can give it a solid and detailed overview of what it is about and why I enjoyed it. But I can’t just hit five stars for my writer friends on Amazon books.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: