It seems there's a versatility in fiction, as in music and art, that encourages new and varying styles of writing. This benefits the reader who will have lots to choose from, but can baffle the writer who's trying to figure out what works and identify their place in the literary universe.
I'll give you an example of what I mean.
I'm currently in the process of reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. It's a genre buster, involving romance and fantasy and history, all wrapped into a nice, little package. Or not so little, considering it's roughly 850 pages long (considering the version you buy). It's chock full of description -- from the changing locations to the characters, even minor ones, nothing escapes the detailed treatment.
I swung down the road that afternoon toward the village to fetch Frank from the vicarage. I happily breathed in the heady Highland mix of heather, sage, and broom, spiced here and there with chimney smoke and the tang of fried herring, as I passed the scattered cottages. The village lay nestled in a small declivity at the foot of one of those soaring crags that rise so steeply from the Highland moors. Those cottages near the road were nice. The bloom of postwar prosperity spread as far as a new coat of paint, and even the manse, which must be at least a hundred years old, sported bright yellow trim around its sagging windowframes. - Outlander, page 28Beautiful prose, no? And it's consistently awe-inspiring throughout the novel, too. If there was ever a book to teach how to describe people and places in fiction, I would definitely recommend this one.
And in the other corner . . . I just finished reading Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. It's a Young Adult romance with genuine charm and humor. Honestly I could sing praises up and down for it. As expected, its written more simply than Outlander, but manages to highlight important details just the same.
He shakes his head, a little dazed. The first thing I notice is his hair -- it's the first thing I notice about everyone. It's dark brown and messy and somehow both long and short at the same time. I think of the Beatles, since I've just seen them in Meredith's room. It's artist hair. Musician hair. I-pretend-I-don't-care-but-I-really-do hair.
[. . .]
The beautiful boy gives an amused grin. His teeth are lovely-straight on top, crooked on the bottom, with a touch of overbite. I'm a sucker for smiles like this, due to my own lack of orthodontia. I have a gap between my front teeth the size of a raisin. - Anna and the French Kiss, pages 15/16Both books are well-written, without a doubt. They both have their strengths, as well as their weaknesses. My point is, they both have such different styles. Of course, they're in different genres and age ranges, but the fact is both succeed at what they're setting out to do. Entertain.
I adore the English language, so my style tends to shy towards arguably excessive description, usually with a large focus on character introspection, and it's always made me curious whether people care for all of that or if they're secretly skimming to the dialogue.
Orrrr, maybe I'm just paranoid. *shifty eyes*
Inquiring minds would like to know, dear readers! What sort of style of writing do you prefer to read? What kind do you like to write? Are there certain circumstances in which a simpler approach to prose is better?