Style: something that defines the work of any single author, regardless of content. Anyone can write about 18th century England, but only Charles Dickens can make the reader see, smell, hear and feel every detail of the setting he has chosen with such skill. Anyone can write advice to Christians living in a pagan world, but only C.S. Lewis can write with such ingenious wording that it leaves the reader in awe of how perfectly the phrasing was. Anyone can write a fantasy fiction story about weird and fantastic creatures and events, but only J.R.R. Tolkien can weave a story so complex and awe-inspiring that it leaves readers at a loss.
And the key words there? Style and reader. The connection between the two cannot be stressed enough.
Why do we write? Many would answer with responses like, “because I can be myself – I can pour myself out in a way that is beautiful and artistic.” Others would say, “because to create is to be fulfilled.” Still others say that writing is a way to speak – to communicate. And yet, whatever we might say, do we not always write with the expectation that what we create will be read? Are we not always proud of our creation? Do we want it shown to the world? Maybe the thought is as frightening as it is attractive, but the idea is eternally in our minds.
The importance of a writer’s audience, then, is plain. And style? Style is the way a writer actually communicates with his or her readers. It’s the unspoken words and the underlying message. It’s the story behind the words and the emotion behind the description. It’s the attitude beneath the phrasing, and the passion in the ink. Style, I say, is the medium with which we put pen to paper – it is the filter that stands between the creative waterfall originating from our hearts and minds, and the pool of words and ink that etch themselves into the paper.
Whatever idea may occur to us (inspiration, emotion, plot-line, character personality…), it is always tempered by what we perceive our audience will think of our writing. Is it realistic? you ask yourself. Is it believable? Or, if that’s not applicable to your genre of writing, does this make sense? you might ask. Is this understandable? Editing is a task that ensures clarity and correct attention to detail – why bother if we don’t are about the audience? In fact, why even draft the stuff if not for the pleasure of presenting it?
Audience, I believe, plays a part in every act of writing, no matter the content, style, author, genre, or even inspiration. Author and audience – writer and reader – are bound by bonds invisible but undisputable.