“The audience isn’t just connecting with your stories, they are connecting with you…”
Writing is one of the hardest art forms to stand out in. To become a recognizable writer, you must have a truly unique author’s voice. In movies you can often tell who the director is by the cinematography style, story pacing, and character arcs. This isn’t much different from writing—only you must create the visuals through words—which is a lot tougher.
The first thing you must do to stand out as a writer is find your distinct storytelling techniques. No, this doesn’t mean you tell the same stories or same kinds of stories over and over. It means the way in which you go about telling a story should scream, you. If someone familiar with your work reads one of your stories, they should be able to tell you wrote it by the style.
In movie terms, think of Martin Scorsese. He often includes similar elements and themes in all his movies, yet each one still feels original. An even better example is Quentin Tarantino. When you watch a Tarantino film you know 100% you’re watching a Tarantino film. They all have similar themes, visuals, and dialogue styles. Yet each of his movies are original and stand out on their own. This is what you want to do in your writing.
To bring things back to writing, let’s discuss the unique styles of famous authors to give you a better idea of how to make your work unique to you. Ernest Hemingway is one of the most famous authors in American history. When you read a Hemingway story you know it’s a Hemingway story. This is because his writing style and storytelling techniques are unique to him. Hemingway made the short, direct, easy to understand style of writing famous. Before him most authors wrote very flowery prose and often looted the closest thesaurus.
Hemingway broke the mold by writing in his unique style, which many future generations tried to copy. As for themes, Hemingway was all about masculine culture and drinking. His stories often depicted what it means (in his view) to be a man. His stories often incorporated characters who were struggling to cope with loss and or featured them drinking—a lot!
John Steinbeck also implemented a more simplistic writing style, but his was different from Hemingway’s. Steinbeck had very specific ways in which his characters interacted in his work. He also used certain themes (often the down-on-his-luck types in the 1930s California) over and over. Whenever someone reads a story about depression era America, they often think of Steinbeck. He also liked to add religious elements and caricatures (his view on Asians, Latinos, and poor people, to name a few) in his work.
The one thing you’ll see almost all successful writers have in common is this unique author’s voice. You have writers like Richard Wright who wrote from the perspective of African-Americans, pre Civil Rights Movement. You have writers like Stephen King who have mastered the ability to tell horror stories in the way only he can. There’s people like Haruki Murakami who have such a unique style that their work is never mistaken for anyone else’s. Then you have writers like J.K. Rowling who has the ability to touch a huge demographic of people with her work.
What makes these writers so original, though? How did they come up with such unique author’s voices? Well, let’s break it down.
First, we go with upbringing. A person’s upbringing shapes the way they view the world which translates to the way they write about the world. Stephen King grew up with a love for old horror stories and horror movies. Obviously this had a major impact on him and how he tells stories now.
Second, your environment shapes the way in which you tell stories. Steinbeck loved California and this is why he wrote about it so much. Hemingway spent a lot of time in Europe during and post WWI, so war and Europe showed up in most of his novels. And later on when he lived in Cuba, you guessed it, it showed up in his work, too. They say write what you know. Well, what do you know better than what’s around you everyday?
Third, your personal life bleeds into your work whether you want it to or not. Haruki Murakami is a good example for this because his work often features characters who are pretty much him: the jazz, books, and whisky loving average Joe. Another obvious example is Richard Wright. As I mentioned earlier, his work was often about the struggles of black Americans growing up and living before the Civil Rights Movement. This is because he was a black man who grew up and lived in the first half of the 20th century. Again, write what you know. Well, what do you know better than yourself?
The “write what you know” cliché is great for creating your author’s voice because it pretty much means write what you see, think, and feel. The audience isn’t just connecting with your stories, they are connecting with you, the author. Even if you’re writing about aliens, that doesn’t mean your personal experiences won’t bleed into the story. Anyone can write about a zombie apocalypse in New York City, but only you can write about it through your eyes (which is often the protagonist’s eyes).
Creating your voice is as simple as learning how to write, and then learning how to write like you. Confused? Let me clear it up. You must learn how to write the proper way first. Learn all the rules, how to tell a story, and how to create characters. This will be a boring and unoriginal process. Once you get the hang of it, though, you can break the rules. You can develop your way of telling stories, create characters, and even funk up the writing structure of your stories.
So if you want to become an original writer, follow these simple rules:
- Master the rules so you can break them like a genius.
- Be yourself.
- Use your upbringing to add realism to your storytelling.
- Use pieces of your environment to enhance the places in your stories.
Boom! It’s not too difficult if you’re being yourself. The hardest part of writing is the learning process. Once you get the mechanics down, all you have to do is create stories unique to you. My best advice, either do what hasn’t been done before, or make something previously done better. Don’t write the same zombie story everyone else is; write YOUR zombie story that’s unlike anyone else’s. Do this, and you’ll be on your way to writing success!
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