Writing 101, Day Seventeen: Your Personality on the Page

What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears. If you’re up for a twist, write this post in a style that’s different from your own.

We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.

Today’s twist: Write this post in a style distinct from your own.

Earlier in Writing 101, both Michelle and I have talked about voice: that elusive element that sets you apart from every other writer out there. Style, however, is different. Your writing style might affect your voice, but ultimately style and voice aren’t the same thing.

While your voice is your own, and something that’s innately you, style is much broader. You might prefer long and complex sentences, or sentences with a lot of commas and layers building upon each other, or perhaps intentional run-ons and thoughts bleeding into the next and no pauses and lots of imagery and never-ending moments that run onto the next page.

Or, you might write short sentences. Fragments, even. Simple prose.

Think back to your assignment on sentence lengths. What kinds of sentences do you prefer, or find yourself writing naturally?

Style is the answer to everything.
A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing.
To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it.
To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art.

— Charles Bukowski

Novelist Raymond Chandler also called style the most durable thing in your writing — “a projection of personality, the product of emotion and perception.” While writers have their own styles, style can be mimicked — you can approach a piece intentionally to create a certain effect. (We once asked writers to write in Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo style — take a peek for inspiration.)

If you need a boost, consider these examples of style: Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las VegasErnest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” and Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Need a helping hand? Head to The Commons.

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  1. Hmmm… I love the idea but this one may be challenging. I have a regular style but I write so much outside of that style that it will be tough to think of something new and different.

    However, I like playing with style so I’ll surely come up with something. This is a prompt I don’t plan to skip.

  2. Fear of the unknown is the most dangerous fear in the world . Fear of what you did not know whether exist or not, but still afraid of it.

    1. Thanks for leaving these little bits in response to the assignment — I encourage you to post them (and expand on your thoughts) in a post on your own blog, then share the link here or in the Commons. Better to have your material on your own site than amid fragments in the post comments.

  3. My biggest fear has been the dreaded empty nest…I hate that phrase. Can we please name it something else? I feel like as my kids leave, one by one, I am feeling better about this and regaining my sense of self, but we’ll see how things are after the last one leaves!

    I have a 15 year old student dying in a hospital of liver cancer today so I have to say posting this as my fear seems so lame. Honestly, I’m so lucky to have everyday that I have with my kids whether or not they are living under the same roof with me or not. Shine on, Matthew.

    1. You have nothing to be afraid of. That was some very strong writing you posted. The long sentences you were afraid of had nice flow to them. This one in particular struck me:

      “Downstairs, five flight of stairs lower, the city drunks were spending their time in the local booze parlour or pissing a stream of vodka back out onto the children’s play ground.”

      Terrific visual.

      Loved the Lana Del Rey reference as well.

      You can write, and well. Stop being afraid.

      1. thanks Guz, for feed back! like Cheri said, its very specific, and therefore incredibly helpful as well as super encouraging! have a great rest of the week!

    1. Thanks for sharing and writing about your fear of not having/following your dreams.

      As for practicing another type of style — one suggestion I could give for next time is going over the top with it. For example, using another writer/piece of writing as a guide, and exaggerating the style you’re mimicking. It’s harder to notice a shift in style if the change is subtle. It’d be more as an experiment, really, and wouldn’t necessarily be something you have to publish on your blog.

  4. I tried to mimic Lemony Snicket’s way of writing in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Try being the operative word since I recognize that this doesn’t even come close to how he writes. Also, in my head, I imagine that someone is narrating this in the background ala Pushing Daisies (I’ve been watching it lately) or Cat in the Hat.

    Any kind of feedback would be lovely :)

    1. Regarding your comment – I feel this way about telling my friends about my blog. I am happy for strangers to read it, but friends ……? My writing is quite different from the social person I portray most of the time. I will read your article now but your comment caught my attention. Best wishes

    1. Well done. Interestingly, I thought of Divergent too when I read the challenge today.

  5. Hi fellow bloggers!!..
    Writing 101 interests me the most and i want to be a part of it. But I just started blogging and hv missed all the previous 17 prompts. Can i just jukp right in? Or do i wait for the next session and will there be a next session?
    Plz do reply.

    1. You’re welcome to follow along on the main page of assignments (we publish posts on weekdays at 7 AM EST):

      There are just a few more left in the course (day 20 is the final assignment). We may run Writing 101 again in the future — but not sure when — but when we do, you can sign up then.

      Otherwise, feel free to go at your own pace using the list of assignments, if you’d like.

  6. “Write this post in a distinct style from your own.” You mean “in a style distinct from your own”? Just being a style/usage nazi.