Question of the Week: Style

by Susan Henderson on March 12, 2007

Describe your writing style (if you’re a writer). If you’re an artist, director, reader, or any of my other friends at LitPark, I want to hear about your style, too, even if it’s to hear about your shoe collection!


Wednesday, short-story writer, Elizabeth Crane, will be here, and we’re talking style, among other things. See you then!


Oh, and P.S., the cruise I went on was unforgettable. I need to find out what I’m allowed to say so I don’t leave you hanging with weird and mysterious comments. And to Maren, Ninja, Fernando, Saul, Tony, and all the other outrageously cool folks I spent the week with – keep in touch.

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Henderson March 12, 2007 at 12:20 pm

Hey guys, I’m getting lots of notes saying the comments are still locked up. I had Terry shut them down while I was away; and as soon as he wakes up (he’s on west coast time), he’ll unlock everything.

Missed you guys!


Terry March 12, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Sorry, folks. I meant to do this last night. But I obviously didn’t. But comments should be turned back on. So have at it.

Terry Bain »Terry Bain Books rss my yahoo
∴ books »We Are the Cat | You Are a Dog ∴ &c. »Amazon Blog | flickr


Julie Ann Shapiro March 12, 2007 at 2:49 pm

My literary style most describe as surreal or literary quirky. I think those terms make sense. Many stories come from dreams, dream voices, intuition, and objects. Yes objects – a ton of them that I see when I go running. I sometimes feel like I’m a portal, a muse – as I tune in the channel and pick up things, that later become a story.

Or if I’m going through a tough period the release of angst will come in a story, but in a weird way. Like my dream last night. After having a stress stomache I finally got to sleep. This is what I dreamed. I saw mathematical equations on my back and feared negative energy. My friend who is clairvoyant pushed the energy off my back. I toppled over and puked and felt better. The sound of what I can guess was my puking woke me up.

Now this image will be worked into my story series. It fits with this dark, edgy story series I’m been exploring. But man it was scary in the dream. All these numbers in black and red were scattered and I’m no fan of math.


Claire Cameron March 12, 2007 at 4:04 pm


Great to have you back. You have good stories to tell?


Lori Oliva March 12, 2007 at 4:30 pm

Hey Susan! Great to have you back all nice and tanned. Hmmmm… I try to reflect my personality in my writing style: quirky, funny, sarcastic and, when appropriate, evil. I really like stepping inside my characters and having them reveal their personality through dialog. You can tell a lot about someone by the way they converse.

I can’t wait to hear more about your (working???) vacation.


Lance Reynald March 12, 2007 at 5:05 pm

for starters, WELCOME HOME!! Now, were you MaryAnne or Ginger for the past week?

as for style, funny thing that; I have no idea myself…and wouldn’t venture to say. I’ve found that in feedback that people see things that I never saw in my writing. (that is when I get feedback, it seems I leave folks unable to speak. Is that a syle?)

and I also feel that sorting through recent events may change whatever it is I did with style previously; I haven’t sorted out what that means to the writing yet, but I know it’s coming.

other than that, I’m willing to consider whatever stamp ya’ll wanna thunk me on the forehead with.

xo- LR


Aurelio March 12, 2007 at 5:13 pm

I haven’t been writng long enough to know if I really have a style. I seem to get possessed by the characters in my stories (no, not in a barfing peas soup way, but in the way that they drive the story on their own) and become this observer of the visuals that play in my head.

(Yes, I actually see stuff play out, like a movie, in my head. I construct it and walk around in it and get can go inside each characters’ head – it great fun.)

This is sounding too psychotic so I’m stopping now.

Forget I said anything.


Ellen Meister March 12, 2007 at 5:48 pm

Sue is back! Order is restored to the universe.

As far as my writing style, I don’t know. I aim for smart and funny and sometimes poignant. Most of all, I try to entertain the reader, as I think that’s my main job.


James Spring March 12, 2007 at 6:02 pm

Susan and I can’t talk about the cruise yet, but, as you can imagine – huge news. Certain laws regarding polygamy keep us from discussing it freely, but I believe that our matching Ezra Pound tattoos tell the story anyway. Who would have guessed that someone named Ezra would be a dude? Not me. And nobody at Cayman Island Tattoos, either. Regardless, stay tuned for a LitPark contest called “Who Wants to Break the News to our Children?” (Snookums, I’ll be home late. My other wife needs me to pick up diapers.)

Oh yeah… my style… Somber.


Paula March 12, 2007 at 6:05 pm

I don’t know about my style, exactly, especially considering I’m not really published, as far as lit goes …

But I sort of try to develop a voice (not so much in a disciplined hurry, either) in my essays/stories/practice that’s some kind of orgy featuring the lovable naivete of Holden Caulfield with Dorothy Parker’s morbid insight and vicious humor put through the word calisthenics and hip principles of Tom Robbins.

Yeah, I think a little too highly of my voice-in-development, probably. But a girl’s gotta have dreams.


Robin Slick March 12, 2007 at 6:18 pm

I have an extremely sick sense of humor, like to sleep with rock legends, dress solely in black and do not wear underwear of any kind.

Oh man, I just hope my writing style reflects those things but okay, if I’m to be honest, I’m pretty sure it does.

And, as usual, what Ellen said.


Lance Reynald March 12, 2007 at 6:33 pm

considering what Robin just said, I think it’s her moral imperative to adopt me.


Aimee March 12, 2007 at 6:40 pm

My style is evolving. I don’t have a good name for it. So to answer your question, I have no clue. If anything, my writing style is unintentional.

Welcome back!


Robin Slick March 12, 2007 at 7:09 pm

Now, now, Lance – you should have been able to figure out I have no morals.

But okay, I’ll adopt you because that’s the sickest offer I’ve had all year.

It’s only early March, though…someone may top you by April.

How’s the book coming? I had a race with Mrs. Henderson as to which of us would finish our novels first but she beat me which taught me something valuable – you never want to get into a competition with her because she’s pretty much unbeatable.

And unstoppable!

(in all the right ways)


Ania March 12, 2007 at 7:21 pm

I don’t know if I have style yet, nor would I probably know how to describe it. But as a reader I always go for the dark and the dense. I went to an exhibit on Joseph Conrad and they had fragments of his writing together with some photograps and his way of writing is a good example here; I like those, long, layered, philosophical sentences.


LaurenBaratz-Logsted March 12, 2007 at 7:32 pm

My literary style is eclectic, but humor does seem to creep into whatever I do. People can be dying or standing on the gallows, but they’re still cracking wise in my books.

(running headlong into Susan’s arms) Ricky! You’re home!


Gail Siegel March 12, 2007 at 8:17 pm

I have no clue how to describe my style. I guess I agree with Stanley Fish to some degree – the reader writes the story. The reader tells me how I write.

I do know that I’m not funny as much as I’d like to be.


Gail Siegel March 12, 2007 at 8:17 pm

And Susan, welcome back. Can’t wait to hear THIS story.


Jenn March 12, 2007 at 9:11 pm

Matter of fact.
To the point.
Been accused of not “wallowing on the page” enough.
Probably because of my PR background, I try to fit everything into one page.


Betsy March 12, 2007 at 9:17 pm

I’m all style and no substance. Ok, well hopefully a little substance.
Sue, I cannot wait to hear about the trip. You’re torturing many people here.


Amy Wallen March 12, 2007 at 9:20 pm

Susan, don’t worry about James, that just comes from working all those years at the pesticide company. He loves the fumes. But someday I’ll have to tell the story of how he nearly had the whole San Diego writing community in a tizzy when he displayed his tattoo brazenly in public and it involved undressing. True story. Some major rules were implemented as a result.

Style. Well, since I’m hoping that we one day have a comedian for president, I suppose humor would be one part of my style. The other part is cheesy 70s tight-fitting, loud patterns with platform shoes and stretch knit.


Anneliese March 12, 2007 at 9:49 pm

Style?! I buy all my clothes off the SALE rounder, so what do I know about style?

All right, if I had to pick, it’d take the label of Non-fiction, creatively so. Inspirations toward my writing style: I like reading Orion Magazine, and regional histories, memoirs along the lines of Isak Dinesen, fiction like “Babette’s Feast,”
The Hummingbird’s Daughter,” “Cold Mountain,” or anything Steinbeck. I like visual, clear, straight-forward prose. Jim Harrison and Rick Bass, yum.

Now, isn’t that funny that I’d be such a landscape realist when my formative years found me sneaking grandmother’s bodice-rippers from her bookshelf. 🙂


amy March 12, 2007 at 9:53 pm

Not sure how I’d describe my style, but at least one agent has called it “way, way too overwritten” (italics hers). 🙂

I use a lot of words, I love semi-colons and m-dashes, and I’m not afraid of adverbs. Overwritten? Maybe. But what the hell, we can’t all be Hemingway.


Carolyn Burns Bass March 12, 2007 at 10:16 pm

My writing style is still a work in progress.

My reading style, on the other hand, is all over the place.

Gee, maybe my writing style is too.


Kelly Spitzer March 12, 2007 at 10:40 pm

I’m inclined to say dark, though I’m not sure all of my work comes off this way. I think it’s a good general description though. I’m starting to get into the quirky, too, which is interesting because I sometimes feel very dense when reading other quirky stories.

An exceptionally talented writer of the quirky genre is Kathy Fish. Read her interview at The Writer Profile Project on my website.


Noria March 12, 2007 at 10:49 pm

I’ve been called the the Queen of Quirk, but quirky as a label kind of bugs me; I prefer wacky. I’ve also been called concise, spare, economical.

I think what makes great writing great — Woolf, Joyce, Faulkner, Hemingway — is simply a collection of stylistic tics. By imitating the greats, I found their styles were desmystified, and I found a style of my own.


Margy March 12, 2007 at 11:52 pm

I’m with Aurelio- if indeed posession can be classified as a style. It is a movie, except I have the option of arguing with the characters about what’s next. Fat lot of good it ever does; they go their merry way, and I trail behind with the keyboard.

Fortunately for me, they are always right.


Jonathan Evison March 13, 2007 at 12:02 am

…i write like carol channing looks . . .


Lori Oliva March 13, 2007 at 12:34 am

Nice, Jonathan! Yes.. I am going back to re-read one of your posted works right now!


*Joe* March 13, 2007 at 1:08 am

I think the acronym FUBAR pretty musch sums it up.

Welcome home, you were missed.


Pia March 13, 2007 at 2:07 am

My work’s been described as laconic. I tend to compress the info into a small space, I guess because I grew up with busy parents. I also try to be direct, and state the trouble in the first couple of lines, so I don’t lose the reader. I think most readers are smart as hell, with piles of unread books by writers who aren’t me, and quick, quick on their feet, so I endeavor to stay one step ahead of them, while I try and provide for them.


scott March 13, 2007 at 2:07 am

Hey Susan – hope you had a blast on the cruise. Looking forward to seeing pics of you with your hair beach-braided. Good questiomn this week, too. I think my style is pretty simple formally – I use straight forward language to get you to believe in the imagined things I believe in, if that makes sense.


Ric Marion March 13, 2007 at 2:25 am

First off, welcome back – been a long week without you.

My style is decidedly different from most of the commenters here. The lovely Bernita said, his quiet charm and gentle, unaffected visuals.

Trying to meld the style of my successful columns about growing up on the farm into marketable fiction – that’s the trick. still working on it. I’m pretty much there. We’ll all know soon.


Tom Jackson March 13, 2007 at 9:51 am

On issues of style. From a writing perspective, my style stems from my being a sports reporter at a daily newspaper in my teens. I’m used to writing under deadline — tight deadline — and if I don’t have someone breathing down my neck saying, “Wrap it up, Tom! Wrap it up, Tom!,” I have a difficult time zeroing in on the task at hand. “Crisis motivation,” I’ve heard it called.

Style, from a clothing perspective: I’m not big on short-sleeved shirts. I tend to wear button-collared oxfords to work, and long-sleeved T-shirts or sweatshirts outside of work. And I’m not a big jeans-wearer. I like cargo pants — I need those pockets.

As you may recall, I also have a voluminous baseball cap collection. I have caps of all kinds, and I like to wear them, but I am very, very picky about how they look. I don’t like the tall crown, because that looks like a locomotive engineer’s cap, which, unless you’re a locomotive engineer, looks stupid. I prefer a softer, lower structure to the cap, but not one that fits too closely and simply shows the shape of my head. Hey, why wear a cap if it’s gonna do that?

I also have five different pairs of eyeglasses. My coolest are the horned-rimmed ones that look like something between what the “horn-rimmed glasses” guy wears on NBC’s “Heroes” and what Malcolm X wore in the late ’50s or early ’60s. (Malcolm X’s were the style I was shooting for, actually.)


Nathalie March 13, 2007 at 10:15 am

Style ?
Not sure it has a definite style.
First because I read a LOT, so I am being – even unconsciously – influenced. And since I have eclectic tastes (in just about everything) those influences are getting the cocktail treatment. So every story that writes itself will dip roots in a multitude of things: other people writings, my surroundings, my mood at the time, the weather, bits of conversations overheard and my dreams, just to list a few.
That’s a massala, not sure it qualifies as style.


Kris Yankee March 13, 2007 at 12:27 pm

Welcome back! Hope you had a great trip.

Writing style, huh? Does “fly by the seat of my pants” count? Probably not.

I’d like to think that my style evokes emotion in the reader. Hopefully it’s the type that keeps the reader hooked and not turned off, but I’ve been told once that a reader couldn’t continue with my manuscript because she was so pissed off with the main character. Not the type of emotion I was looking for when I wrote it.


Bruce Hoppe March 13, 2007 at 12:49 pm


most recently expressed as – a literary action novel (the chase scene and sex scene are merged)


Jim Simpson March 13, 2007 at 12:57 pm

Welcome back, Susan! Glad you enjoyed the cruise.

Much like Ellen Meister, the writing style I aim for is smart, funny, poignant, but I often fall short, landing somewhere near meandering and awkward. I’m constantly trying to avoid being boring.



Mary Akers March 13, 2007 at 1:32 pm

Hmmm. Thoughful, dark, informative, concerned. I just realized my work sounds horribly boring. Gad. I often write about current issues that concern, shock, or infuriate me, but give them different faces and plop unusual things together to tell the deeper story…like Love Canal, infertitlity and a dying fish…This isn’t helping, is it?


Kimberly March 13, 2007 at 2:09 pm


Style? Do overstuffed closets on three floors of my apartment say anything (especially when one floor houses over 75 pairs of shoes – only four of them considered conventionally “practical”?)

Ironically, my industry-dictated ‘uniform’ is t-shirt and jeans!

Writing style? Same thing – loads of stuff crammed into the tiny confines of a screenwriter’s limited parameters of sparse dialogue and heavy visuals.

My bonus, is that with double-duty as a director, with the help of an extremely talented creative team (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) we can turn those simple ‘t-shirts and jeans’ into fantastic ‘designer items’ on the big screen!


Kirk Farber March 13, 2007 at 4:28 pm

I’d say my writing style is tragicomic. Is that a real word? I like to tell sad stories with large doses of humor.


Jordan March 13, 2007 at 4:31 pm

Man, you people get here FAST…!

Sue, I’ve been dying to know about your cruise…gossip whore that I am.

My style. Lordy.
I wish I could say Gothic, textured and psychologically dense.

Complaints about my writing: “Talky. Dense. Florid.”

So perhaps then my writing is like an hour of Fox News at the scene of a concrete pour?


Gail Siegel March 13, 2007 at 4:32 pm

Hi Kimberly. I checked out your webpage and see you went to DePaul. They had/have such a great theater department. I took my kids to see their production of Candide four or five years ago and it was terrific. You’ve got a very interesting professional trajectory.


Daryl March 13, 2007 at 4:33 pm

Susan, you were gone? Didn’t even notice as you are constantly in my head… Anyway, may my style forever remain indescribable as I am in a constant state of rediscovery of my actual identity.


Alexi Lykissas March 13, 2007 at 5:13 pm

I just discovered this fun website, thanks to Amy Wallen’s newest interview with James Spring, and am enjoying all the comments.

My writing style. Well, I just moved to Los Angeles and am writing memoir, so I guess you could say my writing is completely self-involved with a dash of self-deprecation.


Amy Wallen March 13, 2007 at 5:56 pm

I’m going to try something out here. A vent, maybe. Or maybe I’m coming out of the closet. Many folks would call my writing Southern. I cringe when I hear that, but only because I know what that evokes for many Northerners–small minded people with petty worries and very prejudiced. A New York friend asked me if I didn’t feel like I was making fun of the people in my book. My southern friends and family all say they know people just like the ones in my novel. The Washington Post reviewer said the characters are all farcical and unreal. The LA Times said they have big hearts and their antics pull you in emotionally. My mother writes me letters about real live people in these situations. What I’m trying to say here is that I, the writer, am confused. We write what we write (what we know?) and these are the people I know, and I accept that, in fact, I love that I know people who don’t shop at Banana Republic, don’t even know what BR is and who have accents and so don’t sound like everyone else. I don’t like that there are still many prejudices lingering in the humidity. The truth is my book takes place in Texas, and I have never lived in Texas. All my family does and I love that I can visit but can return to California. All this to say, my style gets billed as Southern, so does that make me Southern, or does it make me a writer intrigued by that world, at this time. Does our style reflect who we are at any given time? Does it evolve as we evolve as writers?

This is a long diatribe, but isn’t that what the world of blog is all about–You can blaaachg!your thoughts all over the page? But I’d love to know whether everyone thinks their style is their style forever. And do we decide on it, or do we just write what comes?

Hi Alexi!


Julie Ann Shapiro March 13, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Hi Amy,
My family’s from the south, but I don’t think of my writing as southern. Yet, when I got published in Story South years ago I had readers comment that my characters reminded them of their mothers and other relatives. I don’t think I’m in that space now. At the same time I’ve had readers from the UK say I have a British sentementality. I’ve been to local but I’ve never lived there. Other Canadians say I’m in that space. My Swedish friend thinks my themes are more European. Yet, again, I haven’t lived in Europe just visited. I do read lots of books from the UK and love foreign films.

I think of myself more as a former Laguna Beachwriter who’s now in Encinitas. Theoretically, I could be writing about the beach culture. I think it seeps into my style in subtle ways – by the strange things I see or hear on the beach.

I do think our writing style evolves. Much of my surreal stuff from years ago I still relate to, even though I’d say it different now.


Susan Henderson March 13, 2007 at 7:26 pm

Hey all of you lovely ones. I’m reading all the comments (some of them – James and *Joe* – are making me laugh really hard) and lots of them are so sweet – thank you. I’m backed up with 10 million and one errands and other to-do’s but just wanted you to know I hear you and everyone will be linked on Friday’s Weekly Wrap. Carry on.



Richard March 13, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Like Katz’s Delicatessen, my prose is kosher style.


Noria March 13, 2007 at 10:03 pm

Amy W – I would hope style evolves as we evolve as writers. Sure, it’s possible to get stuck in a stylistic rut (or to get slapped with a stylistic label). But, hopefully, if we continue to push ourselves and take chances and “fail better” that won’t happen. My style’s been changing lately. When I began writing, I was surpised that I was such a realist (a wacky, absurdist realist) — I’m a great fan of Angela Carter, and I suppose I thought I’d write in a more surreal, speculative vein, as she did. Maybe absurdist realism was what my first book wanted to be (I believe that every piece of writing has its own logic). But now I find that the shape of reality in my writing is becoming more plastic, and I’m becoming more the writer I initially thought I’d be. It feels like a natural progression.


Juliet March 13, 2007 at 10:41 pm

It’s like home having both you AND Lance back.

My writing style … I tend to mill around words and thoughts inside for days and weeks, completely unknowingly. Then one day it’s like a volcanic warming deep within, and from my fingertips flow word after word after word.
When it cools, I try to shape it a bit, before it’s set in stone.


Grant Bailie March 14, 2007 at 12:43 pm

I am at a complete loss on how to answer the question but I would like to say I completely love Ms Crane’s husband’s painting.


Kimberly March 14, 2007 at 2:12 pm

Hi Gail! (wow – my first shout-out on LitPark – don’t I feel like the coolest!)

DePaul was awesome (and not to be confused with DePauw – DePaul doesn’t have Soro-Frat houses, the Greeks only get lunch tables in the cafeteria because the open campus neighborhood of Lincoln Park won’t allow houses!) and they DO have a wonderful theatre department! I’d encourage all you Chicagoans to stop by and visit the Merle Reskin Theatre (the old Blackstone) and check it out!! So many of my own class’ alumni are famous film, stage & TV stars now… it’s totally humbling!

Anyway – I’m really enjoying this whole LitPark thing! Thanks for the tip-off, Mr. Henderson (and Sue, for letting me borrow him from time to time!)


jon armstrong March 14, 2007 at 6:13 pm

I don’t think of what I do as style, but read it aloud and have my prose read aloud to me. I listen for pleasing sounds. Rhythms that start and stop — in ways expected and not. I enjoy the accumulation of phrases that suggest harmony.


n.l. belardes March 14, 2007 at 11:52 pm

I’d like to think my style is kind of like the back of a box of cereal meets funkytown.

Kind of puffy and disco funk.

If I were a record I’d be freakin’ DJ mixable.

Susan, is it true you were on a ship filled with nude nuns? And how could you tell they were nuns?



Simon Haynes March 14, 2007 at 11:59 pm

I write in a very plain style, and I don’t put a whole lot of description in either. I polish like crazy, usually going through 20-30 drafts with a red pen by my side, only stopping when I no longer need to make corrections.


Man Martin March 15, 2007 at 11:38 pm

I may be way late on responding to this one – just learned about this site. I write in 200 word bursts from 6:00 to 6:30 every morning. Although constraining, I believe it imparts a great deal of energy to my finished work. I simply don’t have time for leisurely prose.


mikel k poet March 16, 2007 at 9:33 am

my writing style is


Larry Kolopajlo December 16, 2007 at 5:56 pm

My writing is undefined by style and under-stood because I simply slap my feelings on pad of paper in much the same way an artist slaps his emotions on a canvass. Is this writing or is it a verbal painting of my psychoanalytic metaphysical being?


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: