Friday, February 18, 2011

Writing Styles Change

My Book Club is reading a very old novel this month. Theodore Dreiser wrote Sister Carrie in the final months of the nineteenth century, and Doubleday and Co. published it in 1900. According to notes at the end of the book I'm reading, the top two editors at the publishing company had disagreed--one wanted it and the other was vehemently against publishing the novel. The novel did get published but there was no push to market it and sales were abysmal. Later, it was published in England and did far better.

The writing style is all telling with a miniscule amount of dialogue tossed in like scattering birdseed for robins. Over a hundred years later, writing books push showing rather than telling a story. An author of a short story or novel of our century makes good use of dialogue and actions to show the reader what is happening. I doubt that a novel like Mr. Dreiser's would ever have made it to publication now.

Look at the differences in lifestyles for a reason the writing styles have changed. In 1900, people's entertainment came in quieter modes than what we are accustomed to. Readers today are conditioned to action. We see action on movie screens, TV screens, YouTube on computer screens, electronic games, iphones and more. We expect things to move at a rapid pace, and we want our novels to follow a similar pattern.

Writing styles change with the times and so must writers. That said, I do enjoy reading novels published long ago once in awhile, but I often feel bogged down by the slow pace and long-winded descriptions as well as the tremendous amount of telling. Even so, there were some great stories written in yesteryears so don't turn away because a book is old.

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