Sunday, March 23, 2008

Writing for Style: A Compendium of Styles A-H

As a professional writer, I have to write in many styles. Arresting and hyperbolic for an advertisement, flowing and persuasive for a fundraising letter, short and concise for a website. When I have to adopt a style, I read some of the experts in that style to get the “feel” of it. It works well for me and might for you, too.

Adapted from

Here are some of my favourite experts A-H:

Martin Amis – Breathless Hyperbole
James Baldwin – Rich Explanation Through Phrases and Clauses
Bill Bryson – Humour and Lists
Truman Capote – Parenthetical Details
Raymond Chandler – Tough Guy
Frank Conroy – Descriptive Nouns not Adjectives
E.L. Doctorow – Visual Detail
Joseph Heller – Building Absurdity

Martin Amis – Hyperbole from Money (1984)

The narrator of Martin Amis's novel Money is John Self, a larger-than-life filmmaker whose gargantuan appetites are matched by the author's hyperbolic prose style.

In LA, you can’t do anything unless you drive. Now I can’t do anything unless I drink. And the drink-drive combination, it really isn’t possible out there. If you so much as loosen your seatbelt or drop you ashes or pick your nose, then it's an Alcatraz autopsy with the questions asked later. Any indiscipline, you feel, any variation, and there’s a bullhorn, a set of scope sights, and a coptered pig drawing a bead on your rug.

So what can a poor boy do? You come out of the hotel, the Vraimont. Over boiling Watts the downtown sky line carries a smear of God’s green snot. You walk left, you walk right, you are a bank rat on a busy river. This restaurant serves no drink, this one serves no meat, this one serves no heterosexuals. You can get your chimp shampooed, you can get your dick tattooed, twenty-four hours, but can you get lunch? And should you see a sign on the far side of the street flashing BEEF--BOOZE--NO STRINGS, then you can forget it. The only way to get across the road is to be born there. All the ped-xing signs say DON’T WALK, all of them, all the time. That is the message, the content of Los Angeles: don’t walk. Stay inside. Don’t walk. Drive. Don’t walk. Run! I tried the cabs. No use. The cabbies are all Saturnians who aren’t even sure whether this is a right planet or a left planet. The first thing you have to do, every trip, is teach them how to drive.

Martin Amis's Money was first published in London by Cape in 1984. It was most recently reprinted in the U.S. by Vintage Books in 2005.

For more, go to Compendium of Styles A-H on the Writing Tips Page of

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