Stylistically, writing is boundless. And yes, that applies to nonfiction too. Pick up a newspaper and compare the day’s editorial to a news segment, or even the sports section; they’re remarkably different in style, making each one a unique reading experience. So what’s the secret to bringing a distinctive flavour to your writing? It all starts with your authentic personality. Here are four great non-fiction writers who injected their personality into their writing to create a writing style that led to multi-dimensional classics that transport their readers to another world.
Stephen King (On Writing)
Most people know King as a fiction writer, but his aptly-named book on writing, On Writing, has become a must-read for any practitioner of the craft. King side-steps the flowery language and gets straight to the point, using grammar and diction that sound as if King is simply talking to the reader.
Ann Lamott (Bird by Bird)
In contrast to King, Ann Lamott speaks to the reader in a much gentler voice. If King sounds like he’s jawing at you in a barbershop over the baseball game, Lamott’s writing brings to mind a conversation over wine in a candle-lit room. With her softer style, Lamott draws the reader closer to the page, almost listening to the words instead of reading them–still, she doesn’t let this stop her from dropping an f-bomb every few pages!
Robert M Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)
If the above authors prove the literary style works in non-fiction, Pirsig’s approach to the world of zen proves that academic writing can be equally as effective. By taking the technical writing style he developed through years of scientific papers and marrying it with ancient philosophies, Pirsig created a unique masterpiece that continues to appeal to millions of readers.
Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)
And while all the above writers sit in their offices and bang away at their keyboards, Elizabeth Gilbert is somewhere on a beach, sipping rum from a coconut shell. Unlike the candlelit conversation held by Lamott, Gilbert grabs her reader and drags them on a whirlwind tour of her life. Gilbert even maintains her witty and upbeat style through the darkest moments of her book.
Of course, the nuances of your personality shifts from moment to moment, but Gilbert gives us one last lesson. She finds the brightest part of her personality—the kind that is the life of her party—and uses it to create a writing style that she can access time and time again. So find that part of you that comes across best in writing and stick to it. Then you, too, can drag your readers on a whirlwind tour of your topic.
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