Dressing Up Your Writing Style
Happy Halloween and welcome to a special edition of Writer Rants – where our intern, Erin, lets loose on whatever the heck is bugging her this week. Enjoy.
So, here we are. You’ve been asked to write a blog post on chocolate-coated cheeses, a detailed summary of John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory, a series of captions, describing the photos your roommate took at Nick Jonas’ last concert – whatever. The possibilities are endless but, of course, you’re a writer – a master of creativity — so moving between styles shouldn’t be hard. There’s only one problem: you’re not a blogger, psychological researcher, or Instagram expert. You’re a BFA fiction candidate and, oh god, you knew when you glanced over the stats in that 37-page Psychology Today article, sophomore year, that skimming would come back to haunt you.
Welcome to the world of writing. We pride ourselves on our imaginations so, according to our friends, clients, and, more than likely, our own hubris, we should have no problem “imagining” our work in another style. Broadway rock opera – how different could it be from that novel I started? Press release on a local library’s “Lego Night” – it’s just like that brilliant piece of travel journalism I wrote for Show and Tell in second grade! Maybe, like me, you’ve promised your thesis advisor a Faulkner-inspired short story when you’ve always considered yourself a Hemingway person. You don’t think it’s going to be a problem until suddenly, well, it is.
Take this summer, for example. I’ve been writing fiction for approximately 75% of my life and assumed that this experience would transfer easily to the world of screenwriting. I had an idea, a familiarity with character development and dialogue, and, really, what more did I need? Unfortunately, quite a lot. The same went for music reviews, product descriptions, and even simple-sounding editorial emails. It didn’t matter if I’d been a “writer” for fourteen years: that umbrella covers a whole lot of ground and I couldn’t even guess where to step.
So, what’s a writer to do? What we always do: get creative.
Maybe we’re not the next Affleck/Damon duo or developmental psychology extraordinaires, but that doesn’t mean we can’t test out our hands. The best thing about writing styles is that, like the costume you’ll be putting on tonight, it doesn’t have to be you. Maybe it’ll be scary. It’ll definitely take research. More than likely, it’ll also take a lot of late-night calls to your film major friends, who are definitely getting annoyed with the, “So, when can I use parentheticals, again?” line. Still, the most important thing I’ve learned as a writing student is that the difference between forms, assignments, and personal methods, only exist because writers – and what works for them — are so different. And, for every new writing style you decide to test out, there’s a costume hung up on the shelf, just waiting to give you ideas.
So, don your favorite disguise and trick or treat with the best of them. If you don’t like the costume, you can always take it off – once you’ve collected your candy, of course.
Erin Arata is the marketing intern at WA. Tonight, she will be dressing up as a “Baby Spice Latte” and bothering her roommates with the “great, new, screenplay idea” she’s just had. Seriously. Any one want to hear it? Anyone?