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EVERYTHING INCLUDING THE KITCHEN SINK

June 16, 2021

            I’ve talked about writing styles.

            I’ve talked about consistency in writing.

            I’ve talked about punishing your reader with your writing.

            I’ve talked about the writing getting in the way of the story.

            I’ve talked about experimenting with different writing styles.

            This time I’d like to talk about throwing everything at the wall and not bothering to separate or clean it up into something coherent. In other words, throwing everything including the kitchen sink at your reader.

            Of course, you may wonder why I bring this up now?

            I recently read a book that, I kid you not, used every writing style imaginable in the same novel.

THE EXAMPLE

            I will not name the book or the author. I already gave my review on Amazon. While I enjoyed the story itself, it was a real struggle so the rating was low.

            What did I see?

            It went from present to past and then present tense again.

            It had zero point of view. The author head-hopped at will. The was no main character but four…no five main characters, and the author interchanged their dialogue and action at will.

            The author abruptly switched to different characters from the main four or five…unrelated ones in first person.

            The author used italics for internal thoughts of minor characters that were so minor, you blinked and missed them.

            In other words, the author threw everything but the kitchen sink as far as writing styles into the story. About the only thing missing was second person, but maybe I just missed it somewhere.

THE RESULT

            Here’s the thing. I’ve been reading for over sixty years now. Before you say I’m just old and set in my ways, consider that nothing I say or have opinions on is new. Nothing as far as style goes is new, no matter what you think. It’s all been done before, many times in the past. First person? Been done. Present tense? Been done. Mixing tenses and styles? Been done. None of this is just a millennial thing or a Gen X or Gen Z thing, so don’t think some gen invented these styles. They’ve been around forever.

            As for me, as a reader BEFORE I was a writer, as a young spud, there were certain books I grew up with that I loved, and some I didn’t.

            Why?

            It wasn’t always the story.

            It was the writing. Why is that?

            Because I had trouble reading them. The writing got in the way of the story.

            That’s right. Some that are considered “classics” I loved because the writing didn’t get in the way of the story, but at the same time some of the classics I found unreadable because the writing DID get in the way of the story.

Then again, I loved the movie.

            Huh.

            It took a long time to figure out why. Once I learned how to write, the light bulb finally came on. That’s when I learned the mechanics of writing and what works and what doesn’t, at least for me, and a lot of other writers and readers. I’ve been doing unofficial polls of people around me that are readers and gleaning this data for decades.

            Just because something is considered a classic doesn’t mean it’s a good or easy read. Maybe it was the first of its kind. Maybe the story was great but with so few people who could read, those that did didn’t know any better. Maybe the movie covered for the fact the writing sucked. Maybe a few of those classics really were written well. Maybe a few of them set the beginnings of the standards we use today.

            So, with that out of the way, what impression did I come away with from this book?

            All I wanted to do is get it finished. I found the story fascinating for several reasons, yet it was so hard and so annoying to put up with the crap the author was throwing in the way, I almost put it down several times. I paid good money, and invested time in it, therefore I wanted to see it through. When I scanned it at the bookstore, I saw third-person, past-tense. I also saw short chapters and scenes and plenty of dialogue. The quick scan missed all the other crap mixed in there. I can’t always catch the bad stuff.

            So, it became a matter of almost dread instead of pleasure to sit down and read this book.

            Should a book be like that?

            The whole point of reading, especially fiction, is for pleasure, not pain!

            When I closed the past page, instead of a smile on my face, it was with a sense of immense relief. A book shouldn’t be that way, especially since it’s entertainment.

SUMMARY

            When I talk about punishing your reader, which I have many times in the past, this is a perfect example. Throwing everything including the kitchen sink style-wise at the reader is not the way to make friends and grow an audience.

            The whole point of writing is to tell or show a story in the most efficient way possible. You don’t want the writing to get in the way of the story. By switching around styles constantly, you’re not only jerking the reader out of your world, but you’re quite possibly irritating or losing your reader.

            Folks, that’s not the way to tell a story.

            Pick one style and stick to it.

            You and your reader are better off.

            Happy writing!

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