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August 26th, 2006, 11:36 PM
I can't quite place my finger on why Ursula Le Guin (EarthSea series) and Peter S Beagle's (The Last Unicorn) writing have a different feel to their writing. I'd like to mimick their styles because I love their writing but I can't quite put my finger on what makes them different. I wrote a scene a long time ago that explained the feeling of it.Here is an excerpt.

... “Lady, could I stay tonight by your fireside in exchange for a story.”
I looked at him again. His long wool cloak and tunic showed the many miles he had traveled but the clothes were well cut, hinting at their former glory. He wore a long, white beard that told of his experience and there was a sparkle in his sapphire eyes that had once held humor. No, this man was no beggar. His thinness told me that he had fallen on some hard times so I had no trouble welcoming him with a glad heart.
... After he ate his dinner he moved to a stool by the fireside. He sat down as though he was sitting on a throne, for story telling was his domain in which he was King. He didn’t say a word at first. The noisy room went suddenly silent, aware of his presence. Quietly he began to tell his tale. There could have been a tornado outside and he still would have held their rapt attention.

If you have read their stories can you tell me why their writing feels like a master storyteller telling it?
Yes I know it is because they ARE Master storytellers but why technically speaking. Do they use a rhythm that I am not detecting. I've heard of authors that do that thru their whole book and I never notice it until someone points it out.
One thing I noticed is that their pace is slower. Today's novels seem to hit the ground running and never slow down. Le Guin has a differnt style of plot line, I know, but what I am asking about is more about their syntax I think. I don't think I am making any sense now so I will be quiet now.

August 27th, 2006, 12:10 PM
You're doing fine, Kathryn, and you're picking up on stuff. Part of it is the words that they chose and the structure of their sentences. These things create rhythms of sound and narrative patterns that give the text a distinctive voice or style. Both works were written some time ago, and that does effect little things stylistically.

Le Guin wrote Earthsea as a young adult series, but also was determined to tackle very serious, dramatic subject matter in it. Beagle's "Last Unicorn" is meant to be a fable, a form of story that fell out of favor in sword fantasy for awhile, but is perhaps now drifting back into general interest. Both stories therefore employ something of a formal, fairy tale style to word choice and sentence pattern. Both stories also make use of poetical and symbolic imagery and focus tightly on the pov of their characters and the emotional interactions between characters.

If you want, you can get very microscopic about how you study their narratives, but the main things you might want to look at is sentence structure, type of imagery, and how character pov is handled. If you break down the text to study those things, it might be of help to you. You might also want to try Caitlin Sweet's "A Telling of Stars," the writing in which is very lyrical in style and reminds me some of Beagle's Unicorn.

Another thing you can do is simply get down a first draft of your own work and then go back and look at the text and decide how you might improve the imagery, develop character pov (internal thoughts,) and change the sentence structure around a bit for a more formal, lyrical tone. (Though it is worth noting that neither LeGuin or Beagle approach their stories like elocution professors -- both stories are very accessible.)

Pinning these things down can be tricky, and eventually, you have to develop your own style which will not be just like theirs. But if you look very closely at what they do, it can provide you with techniques that may work for your style in the way you would like.

August 28th, 2006, 01:25 AM
That excerpt strikes me as romantic in style and the images it draws can be easily associated to others already established in the popular mythos.

The first line if it was taken alone and out of context and you asked me what kind of scene it came from, I may have ventured a guess that it was a pick up line. :) The inclusion of the word "Lady" really changed the dimension of that first sentence.

The rest of it taps into the well of entrenched archetypes of romance and fantasy. The mysterious stranger who is more than he at first appears to be. The cozy campfire around which rapturous stories are told. Without directly mentioning them, one can already start anticipating ideas of chivalry nobility and tragedy. The passage is littered with words from romance that strictly speaking aren't really necessary: "Lady" "domain" "King" "throne" "glory". Even words such as "wool" "cloak" "tunic" "beggar" "beard" "fireside" evoke a certain time and place. If there was something that pulled me out of the romantic scene it was the word "tornado".

I am not a writer but I suspect there is also a trick to keeping lyrical evocative writing rich and warm rather than distant and aloof. I haven't read Beagle or LeGuin but from the descriptions my guess is their writing might be similar to something like that in Mary Stewart's Merlin series or Guy Gavriel Kay. I personally prefer Stewart. Maybe it is the first vs. omniscient point of view but I find there is this quality to Kay's lyrical writing that I find strangely offputting. It's as if after every well drawn evocative romantic image one could insert a <sigh> and it would be in keeping with the intention of the writing.