Most writers worry at some point about developing their own style. I don’t want to have my own style. I think each story calls for a different style. Writers with distinctive styles, like Hemingway, tend to write stories that are as similar to each other as their style is.
In an interview, architect Bjarke Ingels said something similar about not having a style. Of other architects, he said, “Their style is the sum of their inhibitions.” I can relate this to writing: Hemingway, afraid to look closely at thoughts and feelings, instead describes the wetness of a man’s shirt and the texture and weight of the mud on his shoes. Borges, afraid of taking himself too seriously, skims over his stories, skimping more on detail the more serious the story is. Bradbury, afraid to admit that not all feelings are universal, won’t develop characters distinct beyond “boy”, “man”, and “woman”.
And me? I’m afraid of lingering and boring the reader, even though lingering over details is often the way to interest the reader. I learned that while writing my first novel, and again during my time workshoping, when I tried to rewrite someone else’s story. Probably I still need to learn it several more times. Both of the stories I tried to rewrite came out one-third the length of the original that I copied from. JK Rowlings has the courage to keep on writing past the minimum needed to describe the scene and the action, a faith that her readers love her characters and want all the details.
I’m afraid of sentimentality and shallowness, so I write dark and sad stories. What are you afraid of?