Minds On

Exploring popular authors

Consider these two popular authors, Alan Gratz and Kelly Yang.

Crack! Bang!

Josef Landau shot straight up in bed, his heart racing. That sound - it was like someone had kicked the front door in. Or had he dreamed it?

Josef listened, straining his ears in dark. He wasn't used to the sounds of this new flat, the smaller one he and his family had been forced to move into. They couldn't afford their old place, not since the Nazis told Josef's father he wasn't allowed to practice law anymore because he was Jewish.

Across the room, Josef's little sister, Ruth, was still asleep. Josef tried to relax. Maybe he'd just been having a nightmare.

Something in the darkness outside his room moved with a grunt and a scuffle.

Someone was in the house!

Refugee by Alan Gratz

My parents told me that America would be this amazing place where we could live in a house with a dog, do whatever we want, and eat hamburgers till we were red in the face. So far, the only part of that we've achieved is the hamburger part, but I was still holding out hope. And the hamburgers here are pretty good.

The most incredible burger I've ever had was at the Houston space center last summer. We weren't planning on eating there - everybody knows museum food is fifty thousand times more expensive than outside food. But one whiff of the sizzling bacon as we passed by the café and my knees wobbled. My parents must have heard the howls of my stomach, because the next thing I knew, my mother was rummaging through her purse for coins.

We only had enought money for one hamburger, so we had to share. But, man, what a burger. It was a mile high with real bacon and mayonnaise and pickles!

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Explore and reflect on, then list, the qualities of their writing styles that stand out.

Action

Author’s style

An author’s style is the way they write and/or tell a story. It is the “voice” of the story. Grammar (complex, simple sentences), word choices and phrasing, mood and/or feeling created, and use of literary devices are some elements that make up an author’s writing style.

It is the way an author creates a setting, mood, and/or visuals for the reader. There are different ways to provide the same information.

An author could use:

  • simple sentences
  • use more descriptive words or in a poetic way
  • use imagery and feeling (personification, simile)

For example, an author could describe the scent of a bouquet of flowers in a variety of ways:

  • she smelled the flower’s soft scent
  • a hint of flowers fragrance wafted through with the airy breeze
  • a gentle floral perfume tickled them right under their noses and was absent as quickly as it made itself known

An author can write with their own voice. As a reader, you can sense it through:

  • sentence structure and grammar - complex, simple sentences, the way the words are arranged in the sentence and punctuation
  • word choices and phrasing
  • tone (includes mood and feeling created)
  • use of literary devices
  • the point of view from which the story is told

An author’s style is very important in fiction. The effect of the same story can be different depending on the author’s style or who is writing or telling the story. Author styles are different from author to author and also between and within genres of fiction. Think of an author’s writing style like the mannerism, delivery, and energy that the writer communicates (choppy, smooth, mesmerizing, fast, erratic, dreamy, on edge, relaxing).

Point of view in writing

Some authors will tell a story using various characters’ first-person narrative. Each chapter is a different character’s voice and point of view. Some authors may tell a story in a linear fashion while others may start in the present and take the reader back and forth from the past to the present as the story unfolds.

Some authors may tell the story from a main character’s point of view, while others may write using third-person narrative.

Genres

Style can also depend on the genre the author is writing in.

This requires the author to create and bring the reader into an alternative world and will require a lot of description and perhaps create a lot of terminology and names to establish the setting to support the plot development.

Comedy authors will write to create humour and unexpected surprises.

Here the focus is on character development and growth. This genre typically will use dramatic elements to help the reader understand the character and the character’s thoughts, feelings, personality, and their relationships and struggles.

Historical fiction authors take us back to a historical period and provide factual names, places, and events as part of their story.

Mystery or suspense authors can have a way to lead the readers onto thinking one thing and then suddenly stun the readers, making them realize they’ve been deliberately misled to only be shocked on purpose. A lot of readers enjoy trying to prevent themselves from being misled and take it as a challenge not to be tricked!

Reviewing the elements of style

Go back to the author(s) whose works you thought about in Minds On section and think about their writing in terms of:

  • sentence structure and grammar - complex, simple sentences, the way the words are arranged in the sentence and punctuation
  • word choices and phrasing
  • tone (includes mood and feeling created)
  • use of literary devices
  • the point of view from which the story is told

Try to identify and describe their unique “signature” or writing style. Sometimes, certain authors like to focus and explore certain themes. An author can also change and vary their writing styles in their different works as well.

Complete the Author’s Style Template in your notebook or use the following fillable and printable document to help you get started.

Author’s Style Template

Author: (Blank)(Blank)

Titles of their published works: (Blank)(Blank)

Genres: (Blank)(Blank)

Examples, Observations, Notes
sentence structure, grammar
word choices and phrasing
tone (mood, feeling)
literary devices (metaphor, simile, idioms)
narration (1st person, 3d person, mix, multiple points of view, only 1 main character)

Author’s style templatePress the ‘Activity’ button to access Author’s Style Template.Activity(Open PDF in a new window)

Consolidation

Bringing it all together

Explore the Tasks below and choose one to complete independently.

Task 1

Choose an author whose style you wish to adopt as you write your own narrative.

Follow the writing process of creating your own narrative. Brainstorm a plot, character(s), setting, problem, climax, and resolution. Choose a story map, storyboard, timeline, mind map, or brainstorming method of your choice to help you. If you’re struggling with a plot, base your story on a part of your life (a day or a week in your life) or an event that happened recently that you can share with others.

Determine and describe some identifying characteristics of the author’s style you will adopt. Use the following table to examine an author’s style to help you get started.

Author: (Blank)(Blank)

Titles of their published works: (Blank)(Blank)

Genres: (Blank)(Blank)

Examples, Observations, Notes
sentence structure, grammar
word choices and phrasing
tone (mood, feeling)
literary devices (metaphor, simile, idioms)
narration (1st person, 3d person, mix, multiple points of view, only 1 main character)

Plot Diagram Press the ‘Activity’ button to access Plot Diagram. Activity (Open PDF in a new window)

Steps to Write Your Narrative

Write your first draft. Your first draft may focus on telling your story first. You may wish to start right away using the author’s style to tell your story. Like kneading dough from scratch, you may need to go over your story over and over again gently working on parts of it to establish the style of the author you’re emulating.

Review and revise your story to incorporate more of the author’s style into your story. This is also a good time to check your spelling of familiar and unfamiliar words. Use a resource such as an online or print dictionary to help you.

If possible, partner with a peer. Ask for feedback in stages as you write, review and revise. Does your partner notice a change in your writing style over time? Do the same and act as a peer editor for your partner’s story.

Check in and ask for teacher feedback and direction when you have established enough of the author’s style.

Task 2

Alternatively, you may take an existing story and retell it in the style of a particular author that you know and enjoy reading. You may choose to take a graphic novel and turn it into a chapter book and develop a character more than the plot.

You may want to turn a novel into a graphic novel.

After you have revised for content and style, proofread for correct spelling, language conventions, use of pronouns, adjective phrases, and conjunctions (although, because, whenever).

Publish your writing and credit the author whose style you have replicated.

Reflection

Take a minute to reflect on your learning from this lesson:

Just like we make choices based on what is around us, what we read influences how and what we write about.

  • Identify some strategies you used before you began your writing. Identify some strategies you used during your writing. Identify some strategies you used after writing.
  • Which strategies did you find most helpful? Why? How does being a regular reader help your writing?
  • Do you think the kinds of materials you read affect your writing? How might keeping a journal or diary help your writing in general?

Record your thoughts using a method of your choice.

I feel...

Now, expand on your ideas by recording your thoughts using a voice recorder, speech-to-text, or writing tool.

When you review your notes on this learning activity later, reflect on whether you would select a different description based on your further review of the material in this learning activity.

Press ‘Discover More’ to extend your skills.

Research the author whose style you emulated. Ask permission and write them a letter or send them an email through a trusted adult email account. Ask them how they developed their writing style. Ask them what inspires their writing and if they have any writing advice or tips. Be brave and share the story you wrote based on their writing style with the author. Ask for tips!

Consider forming a book club with a small group of your peers. Decide to read 2-3 works written by an author. Then arrange to get together (in person or virtually) to talk about the 2-3 works you all read. Compare the author’s style in their works. Does the author keep a similar style throughout the works you read, or does the author change their writing style?