ON WRITING… And the Use of “Big Words” and Writing Styles

January 31, 2016 at 8:54 pm

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What writers resonate with you in their writing style?

Hemingway on Falkner - big wordsERNEST HEMINGWAY has always been a recurring mentor for my wiriting. I love his direct, unembellished style. It’s timeless. While writing stories for newspapers and magazines as I made my way around the world for two years on motorscooter Melawend, I was so glad to have with me as a writing guide, this book – By-Line Ernest Hemingway: Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades.

So I love this sort of “war of words” between Hemingway and William Faulkner, in quotes shown on this portrait of Hemingway.

Hemingway also had it in for another legendary writer of his time – THOMAS WOLFE. In his biography, ERNEST HEMINGWAY: A Life Story, Carlos Baker related that in comparison to the way Wolfe portrayed editor Maxwell Perkins as Foxhall Edwards in his masterpiece, You Can’t Go Home Again – Hemingway “…boasted he could get Perkins straighter in 1,000 words than Wolfe had done in 10,000.”

And yet I also love Wolfe’s writing. I tend to be a long-winded writer too – for example, while IN THE LONG RUN: Stories Written From The Road is approx. 50,000 words long, comprised of 18 full-age articles I wrote for a newspaper from a more objective, roving reporter way compared to  IN THE LONG RUN: A Hopeful World Odyssey at 460,000 words, almost as long as The Lord of the Rings (the complete trilogy), to which one reader favorably compared it. For me, that’s just the way the writing went as it was much more candid, comprehensively researched, and in-depth, especially in the profound lessons of life I learned and applied along the way. Despite it’s length, readers have found that it moves along a good, steady, even “can’t put it down” pace. In fact, readers have told me they reread the story! How often would you re-read a book that long?

Wolfe had what I feel was the greatest command of the English language than any other writer I’ve read. Though his writings are quite long (one manuscript was 2 MILLION words, which required his editor to cut huge swaths from his it), the are filled with passages I find utterly eloquent – and his masterful choice of words including ones I’d never heard of indeed sent this reader to his dictionary many times!

As it was with this, one of Wolfe’s common phrases – using big words to describe a person getting into a state of “a paroxysm of mirth” Here’s an example from YCGHA – “This would reduce him to such a paroxysm of mirth that he would stagger across the court and lean against the wall, all caved in, holding his narrow stomach and shrieking faintly.”

I know the first time I came across it, I tripped over it and said to myself, “Say what?” It’s not the way most people talk with each other (which I believe is a great writing style in itself – writing for the niche of readers that would be interested in the topic or story). That phrase can be a dead-on description but I also still find it a reader-distracting way of saying, as we do today, “ROFLAO” rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off” Still, it worked and probably still does for Wolfe’s readers.

But thank goodness, there is no one writing style. No one style that must be used. (Imagine how boring and Orwellian that would be!) I continute to find my own way by reading what resononates wtih me and finding my own balance in that.

That is why I wrote two books about my two-year world journey – one based on the 18 stories I wrote from the road for a newspaper (more objective than personal)… and the other which is much more in-depth, researched, candid, and far more expressive of the lessons of life I learned along the way.

For more info….

What style(s) of writing do you prefer?


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