No sooner had these syllables passed my lips, than — as if a shield of brass had indeed, at the moment, fallen heavily upon a floor of silver — I became aware of a distinct, hollow, metallic, and clangorous, yet apparently muffled reverberation. Completely unnerved, I leaped to my feet; but the measured rocking movement of Usher was undisturbed. I rushed to the chair in which he sat. His eyes were bent fixedly before him, and throughout his whole countenance there reigned a stony rigidity. But, as I placed my hand upon his shoulder, there came a strong shudder over his whole person; a sickly smile quivered about his lips; and I saw that he spoke in a low, hurried, and gibbering murmur, as if unconscious of my presence. Bending closely over him, I at length drank in the hideous import of his words. (Poe)
I find my heart pounding as I read it as the words do not just describe the scene. They describe as though the narrator is me. I feel what he feel and see what he sees. The best writings are the ones that can pull that from me as a reader. Poe never fails to do that with me.
Too often the classical writings get to be too burdensome in description. The details of a room or a house could stretch for an entire page or more. Even though I see Edgar Allan Poe as the master of storytelling, he can take a very lengthy paragraph just to describe how bad one character looks. By today’s standards, he goes on and on in a way that gets too verbose as in this paragraph:
Upon my entrance, Usher arose from a sofa on which he had been lying at full length, and greeted me with a vivacious warmth which had much in it, I at first thought, of an overdone cordiality — of the constrained effort of the ennuyé man of the world. A glance, however, at his countenance, convinced me of his perfect sincerity. We sat down; and for some moments, while he spoke not, I gazed upon him with a feeling half of pity, half of awe. Surely, man had never before so terribly altered, in so brief a period, as had Roderick Usher! It was with difficulty that I could bring myself to admit the identity of the wan being before me with the companion of my early boyhood. Yet the character of his face had been at all times remarkable. A cadaverousness of complexion; an eye large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison; lips somewhat thin and very pallid, but of a surpassingly beautiful curve; a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, but with a breadth of nostril unusual in similar formations; a finely moulded chin, speaking, in its want of prominence, of a want of moral energy; hair of a more than web-like softness and tenuity; these features, with an inordinate expansion above the regions of the temple, made up altogether a countenance not easily to be forgotten. And now in the mere exaggeration of the prevailing character of these features, and of the expression they were wont to convey, lay so much of change that I doubted to whom I spoke. The now ghastly pallor of the skin, and the now miraculous lustre of the eye, above all things startled and even awed me. The silken hair, too, had been suffered to grow all unheeded, and as, in its wild gossamer texture, it floated rather than fell about the face, I could not, even with effort, connect its Arabesque expression with any idea of simple humanity. (Poe)
While the language is poetic in nature, it can become burdensome just to explain how bad the man looks. A writer putting these words to paper would be considered a showoff and rambling. Yet the classical authors had a way with words that seem to be lost in today’s modern works. This same paragraph has Poe describing in such vivid detail Usher, and with words rarely used today in modern fiction.
The more modern styles get into the action and dialogue with no lulls to describe a room over two full pages. Just enough description is given for the reader to fill in the rest.
Jim Trusdale had a shack on the west side of his father’s gone-to-seed ranch, and that was where he was when Sheriff Barclay and half a dozen deputized townsmen found him, sitting in the one chair by the cold stove, wearing a dirty barn coat and reading an old issue of the Black Hills Pioneer by lantern light. Looking at it, anyway. (King)
The reader gets just enough description of this shack before the Sheriff arrests Trusdale. There is no lengthy description of the type of wood that it is made of or how much dust on the floor. I tend to lean toward this style as a reader only because I don’t like to linger over the scenes and try to absorb so much detail. I want just enough to pull at my emotions and keep me in the story but no more.
My ideal writing style is a combination of the classical and modern. To be able to weave a vivid sentence with power without boring the reader is my goal. When I write, I think my words make sense and achieve that goal until I read them out loud or have someone else read them. Many errors are caught that way, including grammatical ones. But I also hear the writing style come out. I tend to write in a conversational tone, but when it comes to emotions I produce a more classical style. I’ve discovered this mostly by writing every day as David Wright suggests as it is “the only way to improve a skill…practice.” After analyzing this, I’ve discovered that most of the books I enjoy is a good combination of these styles. It was not evident to me until I began several books during the holiday season. The ones that appealed to me the most was the perfect combination of styles.
King, Stephen. “A Death.” The New Yorker. 9 March, 2015. Web. 20 December, 2015.
Poe, Edgar Allen. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Edgar Allan Poe: Tales, Sketches, and Selected Criticism. University of Virginia. 4 July, 1999. Web. 20 December, 2015.
Wright, David. “10 Ways to Find Your Writing Style.” Collective Inkwell. 20 May, 2009. Web. 20 December, 2015.