Monday, February 26, 2018

How an Author's Writing Style Can Affect a Reader's Experience

I know that at least for myself as a reader, the author's writing style can be just as important to my reading experience as the story itself.  I'm sure it has to be the same for other readers out there. 

Sometimes an author's writing is lush and technically beautiful, but the story just can't pull you in. For me, an example of this was Kendare Blake's Antigoddess. While I've loved her Anna duology and the first book in the Three Dark Crowns series, I just could not get into Antigoddess and ended up DNFing (Did Not Finish) it, which is rare for me. 

Another book that I DNFed was Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, the first book in the Witchlands series. While the concept of this book sounded amazing and I wanted desperately to love it, and the story itself was pulling me in, I struggled so hard with her actual writing that I couldn't finish it.  Now as I see other readers online raving over the newest book in the series coming out, I find myself tempted to go back and try Truthwitch again, but I don't really have the time right now.

Don't hate me, but another author I struggle to actually read is Jane Austen. I *LOVE* adaptations of her work... in film, on television, and retellings by all types of authors because the story is there, but I cannot read her actual words easily.  Some of her novels, like Emma, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey are somewhat easier, but I tried both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and just struggled the entire way through.

I'm actually hoping at some point to try out the books in The Austen Project series, starting with Sense and Sensibility re-envisioned by Joanna Trollope.  Here's how the project is described (from Goodreads): The Austen Project pairs six bestselling contemporary authors with Jane Austen’s six complete works: Sense & Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion and Mansfield Park. Taking these well-loved stories as their base, each author will write their own unique take on Jane Austen’s novels. With some stellar contemporary authors on board, I'm sure I'd enjoy these when I have time to pick them up. 

So what prompted me thinking so hard about writing styles?  Well, last week I read books two and three in the Dustlands trilogy by Moira Young. I had read the first book, Blood Red Road, back in February 2012 not long after it first came out.  As you may or may not know, I love dystopian fiction and this book hit me just right. I absolutely loved it and raved about it, in fact here's an excerpt from my blog reviewI loved the written style of this book. It reads like a movie. The prose is sparse and thus, even more compelling. The author purposely refrains from using quotation marks around the speech, indicating yet a further breakdown of society, but also forcing the reader to truly read every word on the page. The world is well-built, with realistic issues, and a cool futuristic cowboy vibe. I loved it so much that I bought books two and three in hardcover as they each come out. 

Now, six years later (and six years older) I dove back into the Dustlands world, expecting to love it as much as I did originally.  When I cracked open
Rebel Heart I was astounded how much I did not have a problem jumping back into the story, but how jarring I found the writing style to took me at least a third of the book to decide that, yes, I was going to finish it.  What I'd once found stand-out and compelling, was not off-putting and hard to read.  I found myself longing for the quotation marks to signal me into dialogue.  I had to slow my reading down an incredible amount through this second book until I sort of got the hang of recognizing what pieces were action and what was dialogue. 

By the time I read book three (and I'm happy I did so immediately after the second), Raging Star, I had hit a somewhat uneasy stride again, and found myself so compelled to finish Saba's story that I was happy to chug my way through it.  I do not think, though that I would be looking for any books written this way purposely, though.  I remember when the first book came out it was read by the Nutmeg Award nomination committee of which I was a member, and many other readers HATED it because the lack of punctuation was so frustrating.  NOW I absolutely get what they were distressed by and have to at least partially agree. While I'd love to say that this series could have found a wider readership with a different writing style, I also have to go back to the critique I gave the first book and recognize that the style was chosen with a purpose.  It makes the trilogy unique in a sea of YA dystopian fiction and emphasizes both the lack of education of the main character's society and the desperation that they all feel in a broken down society. 

All in all, I'm very glad I read the trilogy and enjoyed the story, but struggled with the way it was written and will most likely be donating these books to my Library, rather than keeping them for myself. I don't think I'll ever reread them. 

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