It’s often that works of literature are heralded as creative and original by how similarly creative and original their story is. For example, a simple glance on Goodreads’ list of most original books contains countless novels that nearly everyone has at least read or heard of. What made them unique? In general, it was their story. Now you might be thinking that this article is about how to make a creative story, however, I’ll be taking a different approach. There’s already thousands of articles and even books on how to create creative stories, so I don’t want to add another to the pile.
In this article, we’ll be looking at how grammar can help make a work of literature unique. When I began writing, I was constantly worried that my tales might conflict with the millions of other books out there. I wanted to find a way to create my work differently, to find another angle of presentation, and also increase my writing skill at the same time. Once I found a way, it helped make the story differentiate itself from others quite well.
Now there’s no rule to follow to create a different grammar style, but I’ll share what I did in hopes that it might help someone find their own way.
Here was my plan:
Have a story
Before I thought about the presentation of my writing, I had to have a story. There are several types of writers, and some can begin writing immediately, some need to write outlines, and some need to just think about it for a while. It took me a long time to simply think about it and get it together, but that’s my creative process and it worked for me. Find your best method.
Find what stresses your capabilities
Your writing ability needs to be pushed to the point where you’ve reached something that you don’t think you can write about. I discovered a few exotic works of literature that intrigued me, and they were all lipograms, a form of constrained writing. One was Gadsby by Ernest Vincent Wright, which doesn’t contain the letter “e” throughout the entire book. There were several others, and they all practiced similar constrained writing methods. I thought that this might be interesting, and it was certainly something I didn’t think I could do for an entire novel. This may not be you, but I didn’t want the sole focus of my story to be on the constrained writing quality. I felt that it would instead enhance its presentation in a deeper way, and be a supplemental factor to the language of the book.
Employ your tactic
“Juliet is the sun” (From Romeo and Juliet) is in my opinion one of the most powerful metaphors you can find. I wanted this same strength in my story, and I also wanted to use a constrained writing method. So then what? Well I thought about how powerful metaphors are both in design and writing. Then I thought about the weakness of the metaphor: The Simile.
“Juliet is like the sun” simply isn’t as special as the original quote, and doesn’t show the same inherent qualities attempted to be conveyed. For, Juliet is the sun. She doesn’t have similar qualities that sun has, but the same qualities. In fact, there’s no difference between the two.
My tactic? I would use constrained writing and never use any common similes. Yes, the definition of a simile isn’t limited to comparison using “like” or “as” but it was a start, and would remove any direct similes. I would be forced to use metaphors for comparison.
Now similes can be incredibly beautiful, especially in poetic writing, but I made a decision to omit their use entirely for the purpose of being constrained and forced to find a harder route. My book needed to be difficult to write so as to pay attention to each sentence with the same care as the last.
Your tactic may hinder progress in the beginning, but it has lasting benefits
While the words “like” and “as” never show up in my story, I never realized how much we naturally use them. For example:
“As they walked past a tree, it looked like it might fall.”
The occurrences of “like” and “as” may not even be direct comparisons, but I had to stick with my rule and find a different way of communicating my idea:
“While they walked past a tree, it showed signs that it might fall.”
Though simple fixes, they really made me think through every single sentence. It was a pain for a while, but eventually my brain began to think without common similes, and it became a habit of not using them. Although more prominent in descriptions of people and things, metaphors dig deeper the more you use them and the less you use similes.
Here’s an excerpt from Portents of a Weeping World that shows a part of the result of omitting similes:
“It was all the earth that reflected the light and beauty of her face. Her hair was a waterfall, ever flowing and setting the stars. Her lips the springtime roses blooming, full and void of imperfection, yet wielding beneath their splendor a tongue grasping thorns that pierce if unheeded. Her eyes bore the flames of fluent jasper, trailing into smoke of agate and diamond. She was the end of bedlam, master of all the wonderful, and empress of the empyreans. She turned and faced Daeon, he lost all breath and could not hold her gaze.”
As I said before, this article is about my method, and isn’t intended to be a rule or solution for finding a unique grammar style, merely an idea to find your own. You may not even want or need to find one, but if you’re looking for a way to further make your book special and differentiate itself from the masses, this might help. It doesn’t even have to be grammar! But try and dig deeper than the story, and think about its presentation.