Style versus Convention

Writing has unspoken rules. Mix your sentence lengths. Show don’t tell. Don’t switch POV between chapters without a robust structure. Okay. Perhaps unspoken is the wrong word. A quick Google search will easily find these and more.

I was recently reading a book excerpt on a writing group I’ve joined. It was written in a style reminiscent of Pratchet and as a result a lot of conventional wisdom did not apply. It was a difficult piece to critique because structures that should not work did, and each place a rule was broken, it seemed a valid stylistic choice.

It begs a second question. If style can trump convention, should convention be discarded more often? Additionally, is an absolute adherence to convention a bad thing? Do people develop a unique voice through their ‘mistakes’ If everyone’s work was broken down by an endless march of editors would it become like a blurred average of faces. Beautiful but unremarkable?

This isn’t the first time I’ve considered this question. As mentioned before I have a condition called aphantasia. I have no visual imagination and cannot picture things from memory. When I write, I cannot see the scene and instead run logically through a list of events that I want to happen. This naturally has an impact on my writing and it tends to be very logically ordered as a result. Additionally, visual language is perhaps lacking while a focus is placed on characters thoughts and feelings. Is this a problem? Or is it in these flaws that I gain my style? It’s difficult to say, and I genuinely don’t have an answer.

I’m not suggesting we discard convention, and if in an attempt to develop your voice you decide your next piece will drop full stops in favour of a single ten-thousand word run-on sentence, well, I wish you the best of luck. I think however, it is worth considering if something might be lost in the search for perfection. Perhaps by letting some flaws through, we may show more of ourselves. We are after all, only human.

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