Hooptedoodle and You

You know the thing about writing styles, right? How they’re like our beloveds’ beauty in the beholderfaces. Beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that other pomp and parade. The skinny guy loves the fat chick, but no one knows why, except them. And that’s all that matters. The same goes for writing styles. Some styles click for readers and others repulse them.

And while styles range from aristocratic splendor to colloquialisms at the john, I’ve learned that the only authentic way to find out who I am as a writer was to first discover who I wasn’t.

Consider the following nugget of prose:

“The sun rose like a uniformed officer in full salute, beckoning me to face the day with equal vigor.”

Yes, many authors are entitled to write like this, and do a splendid job at it. I commend them. It’s not me, though. I tried to make it me, but failed. I’d probably write it like this: “Ah, cripes. The sun’s up. Shoot it or me. You decide.”

Not to mention that if one of my characters was privy to someone regaling in the sun in the same manner as in the first scenario, they’d push said regaler to the ground and rob them of loose change to buy a pumpkin spice latte. Not looking back at the sun, no, not even once. walkingawayfromthesun

My style, of course, doesn’t resonate with everyone, and for that, hoorah. Because if it did, then there’d be a whole lot more people doing a whole lot more shoving and robbing for pocket change. And, that’s just bad business for us as a society, don’t you think?

(I kid. Reserve the hate mail for when I talk politics or let my kids run wild at the mall.)

It’s important to dip your toes into the styles of others. Not to emulate, per se, but to see what hits home with you and what simply slaps you ugly.

You never know, the constant searching might help you find your anthem, as I’ve found mine. You see, when people criticize me for having too minimalistic of a style, I can now tell them to take their hooptedoodle out for a nice steak dinner and smooch it.

That’s right. Hooptedoodle. Courtesy of the one and only Steinbeck.

“Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. The guy’s writing it, give him a chance to do a little hooptedoodle. Spin up some pretty words maybe, or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up in the story. So if the guy that’s writing it wants hooptedoodle, he ought to put it right at first. Then I can skip it if I want to, or maybe go back to it after I know how the story come out.”

Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck  sweet thursday

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Shocking You Softly

I was once that kid on the playground telling my little friends every bleeped out word in the universe. To be fair, however, I didn’t really know what I was doing. This is elementary school we’re talking about, and my parents were naïve, or remiss at best, not thinking I was cataloging everything.

I’m sharing this because I find myself in a constant tug-of-war of what I can and cannot say in Christian publishing. To be clear, I am not an advocate of swear words. I am a reformed potty-mouth, and I intend to keep my writing free of curse words. To me, that is one of the many beauties of Christian publishing—untainted prose.

However, I can’t stop thinking that Christian publishing is in some sort of shifting paradigm, where two radically different generations are trying to see the whites of each other’s eyes.

Case in point: A beloved friend and fellow Christian author once urged me to take my work into mainstream publishing because the essence of my voice might upset some. She was speaking directly to my inclusion of certain words such as “sucks” and “stupid.”

I didn’t see the big deal at first. Now, however, I’ve been thoroughly acquainted with the big deal. It even locked me in the closet, took away my dinner, and told me to shape up if I ever wanted to see the light of day again. (Kidding. The edit wasn’t that painful.)

I’m not saying I wish to convert everyone to accept or speak my language, but the truth of the matter is I’m a born and bred Southern California girl, raised on MTV and the gag effect of adverbs. Totally.

I get that my style is too much for some, and that’s OK. One writer can’t please everyone. I’ll definitely have my niche, and I’ll walk away with the coziness of being honest to myself and with what I’m conveying to others.

As an example of the real Heather, consider this snippet of dialogue between my husband and me:

Husband: “Don’t you just love the sunset? All the colors coming together like a symphony God is orchestrating, telling us to enjoy ourselves and gaze at something beautiful.”

Me: “Eh. My back hurts. Are we done here? I feel like tacos. You feel like tacos?”

So yeah, if sunsets bore me, you can probably guess how painful it is to pretend me talk fancy.

I once tried writing an entire book the way I thought others would expect me to write. It sucked. And, it was stupid.

Even if it makes people cringe, I can only write the way I know how. That’s a good enough starting point for me. What else would you expect from a Southern California girl who gives up sunsets for tacos?

Have you had to modify your writing to make it work in Christian publishing? Do you regret it, or are you happy that you will be able to reach your audience more effectively?