One of my favorite aspects of ghostwriting memoirs is when I have gathered all the information for the book and I get to choose the style I’ll write it in. To me, style is everything, and I don’t choose a writing style lightly.
A Look at Some Writing Style Options
I have to ask myself: does the book want to read clipped and straightforward, like a detective novel; folksy and casual, like a southern novel; or complex and involved like a political thriller? In making the selection, I have to look at the information needing to be conveyed.
Basically, the more complex the storyline, the more creative I have to get with the writing style. For instance, the book I’m ghostwriting now involves a man’s life set against a very complicated political background, so the amount of information that has to be conveyed in each chapter is immense.
It’s like basically writing two books in one. I had to think about how I was going to bring across all this information, because one technique won’t do it. When there’s a lot of exposition like that, it can’t all be given through dialogue, hindsight narrative, asides, or any single technique. It has to come across through a variety of techniques so that the reader doesn’t catch on to how she’s being educated as she reads.
Writing Style: Formal or Casual. It’s your choice.
With this book, I actually decided on a loose, stream-of-consciousness writing style that lets the reader know right off the bat that anything could happen, here. Sometimes I’ll confine the narrative to hindsight about the events being discussed, sometimes I’ll ask the reader’s pardon to explain some complicated political machinations that create a backdrop to the story.
This writing style lets me break that fourth wall and address the reader directly, sometimes admitting that the next part of the story can’t possibly be understood without a bit of background, and here it is . . . This choice, to me, makes reading the memoir both an entertaining and educational adventure.
A lot of Exposition Demands a Certain Writing Style
Readers may or may not like all that learning, but they can’t say I tricked them into buying a book full of lengthy, dull explanations of who succeeded whom in this or that coup. Using my choice of style, I make the need for that type of dry “information dump” into an asset by having a sense of humor about it. I also always keep such info dumps to the bare minimum necessary.
My point here is: chose your writing style wisely. As an author, you don’t have to do this high-handed thing called “developing a style” and use that same style in everything you do. You can be versatile. This article talks about developing “your style,” which is important, but it’s a mistake to think every author can only have one style in her toolbox.
If you’re a slave to your story, like I am, you’ll need that flexibility in order to serve each story with the attention it deserves.