What are some offbeat style guides for fiction writers?

Something which might challenge conventional wisdom or view things from a new perspective.


Offbeat meaning not King's "On Writing," not "The Elements of Style," etc.

2 Answers

  • 7 years ago
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    Daniel, though I've already responded to your other posts about this, I'm repeating my answer here so that posterity doesn't think a recommendation that deliberately goes against your additional details was the best answer.


    I've answered this question already for you with actual style guides (Garner is not, but buy it anyway; otherwise get Cassagrande, Williams, Tufte, Wilbers, Christensen, Hale): http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=201401...

    Truth be told, there are only so many style guides, so I can't imagine you'll discover many more than those I mentioned. Therefore, I wonder if you're still asking this because what you're looking for isn't actually a "style guide" but is actually what most would consider a "craft book"? I list a number of them here ( http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=201401... ) but I'll go deeper for you:

    If you're looking to challenge conventional wisdom about fiction, with a focus on language, then the best place to start is Charles Baxter's two books, "The Art of Subtext" and "Burning Down the House." In those books, he sagely analyzes, among many other things, defamiliarizing through description, epiphanies, and subtext in dialogue.

    Baxter has actually has edited a whole series of "Art of…" books for Graywolf Press. Most are about poetry, but you might enjoy Joan Silber's The Art of Time in Fiction and Mark Doty's The Art of Description. Doty in particular talks a lot about style and word choice (mostly in poetry, but some prose), with a very thoughtful, nearly philosophical, perhaps a little dense, approach that is unlike anything else I've read. Definitely worth mulling over.

    David Jauss has a phenomenal book subtitled "rethinking conventional wisdom about the craft" (in hardcover it's called "Alone with All that Can Happen" [cheap used copies available at amazon] and in paperback "On Writing Fiction"). His discussions about point of view, present tense, and "flow" (as it relates to sentences, paragraphs, and stories) are original and unparalleled; also his essay on epiphanies is clearly a response to Baxter's essay on epiphanies.

    Madison Smartt Bell's take on the genre is very unusual. Rather than a collection of essays, his book is an anthology of stories, which he has copiously footnoted and bookended with two great reflections on the craft. His footnotes often talk about how a particular sentence changes the story.

    James Wood is a phenomenal book reviewer who is more sensitive to language and style than most. His collections of essays (most from the New Yorker) are worth reading, but the place *you* should start is his "manifesto" How Fiction Works, which discusses narration, free indirect style, and the "thingness" of language in interesting ways. As interesting corollaries to Wood, try David Lodge's The Art of Fiction and B.R. Meyers' A Reader's Manifesto. The former is a collection of craft essays written for the "average reader" and printed in a newspaper each weekend for a year (the 52 essays are on such topics as repetition, the exotic, and the use of names); while the latter is a polarizing and excoriating analysis of the language used by such high "literary" prose stylists as Don DeLillo, Annie Proulx, and Cormac McCarthy--the book made huge waves since he sets out to show why these writers are terrible (a worthwhile discussion, even if you disagree).

    Finally, Karl Iglesias's Writing for Emotional Impact is about screenplay writing (not "fiction" per se), but it will challenge a lot of what you think you know about writing. Not about language per se, but about the "middle ground" between language and structure, where many nitty-gritty decisions get made.

    You could also do worse than checking out the many anthologies (Tin House, Warren Wilson) and books (Gardner, Brande, Olen Butler, Mckee) I recommend in that other post.

    Source(s): I am a novelist
  • 7 years ago

    Check out Stephen King's book "On Writing"

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