By C. LaRene Hall
Last fall I attended a writers conference where Clint Johnson spoke about developing style. He encouraged us to find a passage from a writer we either love or that interests us for some reason, and then try to recreate the style as best we can see it, by writing either a short story or one complete scene.
He told us that we should experiment in our writing. See what is possible for us to do with the written word, and pay attention to our successes and our failures. Write one paragraph that works using only simple sentences. Write another paragraph that is at least five lines long and is all one sentence. Write a paragraph that is written completely in sentence fragments. Write a page of dialogue. These are all good exercies.
He encouraged us to learn grammar, punctuation and syntax rules and then break them for effect. Words are tools; they have no value beyond their ability to communicate and evoke. The better your skill with these tools, the more influence you have over their effect on your reader.
Now all I have to do to improve is follow his suggestions. I know he is right and if I try doing these things my style will improve. He had lots more to say, but I'll leave that for another time.