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Beyond Style
Gary Provost
Mastering the Finer Points of Writing
Published by Writer's Digest Books in 1988
Book Review by Bob Matherne ©2002


In this followup to his "Make Every Word Count" Gary Provost gives us a guided tour of creative writing that could be labelled "Make Every Word Sing." He is not satisfied with the concept that style, like life, is "what happens when you're doing something else," but feels that good writing style can be cultivated. As a writer and a teacher he reviews many manuscripts of beginning and professional writers and has developed the skill of spotting places where their writing doesn't work.

In this book on how to develop your individual style, he warns us that any technique that is obviously a technique doesn't work because it makes the reader aware of the author instead of the character or subject of the writing. One poor technique is describing the viewpoint character using a mirror or shop window reflection, "she saw in the shop window that her hips had grown wider than she imagined." Another is switching viewpoints abruptly within a single scene or paragraph. Another is inserting dialogue or description that adds no meaning to the piece.

On the positive side he suggests the use of quotes. "Credibility is believability," he says, "and everything you write, fiction or non-fiction, must have that quality." Quotes, showing that it's true, and "plants" are ways he suggests of adding credibility. Plants are basically presuppositions of other time and space actions that are created in the readers' minds by some statement. The juggler's sticks tumbled in the air like Tony's body did during a triple somersault during his college gymnastic competitions. Later when Tony does a triple somersault to foil a robbery we tend to believe it as a result of the plant while he was watching a juggling act.

"Beyond Style" is written using all the techniques that Gary suggests for writers to follow. He achieves a coherency of form and content thereby that adds credibility to his suggestions for improving style. This is an enjoyable and easy to read book that every beginning writer should have in his armamentarium. With it one can discover that what lies "beyond style" is the individual writer that transcends stereotypes to create writing that is as unique one's fingerprint and as revealing as an intimate portrait.

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