What's wrong with my style


#1

I messaged someone to tell me if my writing style was messy and unprofessional however, they have not responded and it has been weeks. I will write a very short story to show my style and you guys can tell me if it is really bad or not.

It was pretty cold out and I knew something was off I couldn’t see very far in front of me I was freezing and had a light jacket on. I couldn’t remember anything I was stranded in a blizzard and was probably going to die. I looked for sources of warmth and couldn’t find anything I was afraid and knew that I was going to freeze.

I walked for a bit before sliding on some ice and rolling down a mountain I latched on to something before I fell and with my last bit of strength pulled myself up. I noticed a nearby cabin with a lantern inside I walked over to the cabin and noticed someone sitting there. I knocked on the door and there was no answer I looked in the window again.

I opened the door slowly and the person in the room did not move I noticed the figure was wearing a heavy coat I tapped on their shoulder. The person did not move I was afraid and noticed blood pouring out of their neck. A shock went through my body and I heard a noise I turned and saw a horrifying figure with a bloody mask.

The figure breathed heavily and his terrifying blood smile drawn onto the mask made me want to run as far as I could. He walked slowly towards me and slashed open my stomach with a single slice of his machete. I fell out a window and crawled away slowly I heard the wall bust open and he walked towards menacingly.

I looked at him and my I lost my grip I slipped off the mountain and smashed open my head I laid on the ground and thought about death.

[If you have found this notebook I’m dead]

Tell me what you think


#2

The main thing that stands out to me, is a lack of punctuation. I think a few commas to break up the sentences would help a lot :wink:


#3

I think comma’s would be helpful, you have quite a bit of run on sentences. Another thing is you write in a way that tells the reader what’s happening instead of shows. For instance, instead of just blunting saying she’s cold describe it. Like teeth chattering and bones shaking, etc. The characters thoughts are very important to letting the reader connect with them. In this scene how is the narrator feeling? Are they scared?


#4

Hi!
So to start off, the plot of your short story is good. The way the events are sequenced and carried out work well even though its just a few paragraphs. It definitely has potential to play out into a full story.

I think your biggest issue is your punctuation. You need to throw some commas in there lol. What used to help me was to read the story out loud, 9 times out of 10, you naturally pause at certain points in the story whilst speaking, and that gives you an idea where to break the sentence with a comma or period.

Besides that, maybe try to not be so redundant when describing whats going on. You brought up how cold it was and how it was freezing in all the sentences of your first paragraph. As a reader, I was easily able to figure out that your character was indeed, freezing haha. Maybe go into describing what the character is feeling, physically, mentally, emotionally, instead of just providing a general picture. You want the reader to envision the scene, and make it feel as if they’re standing right there with your character and going through the same thing.

Anywho, sorry for the long comment, it’s my day off and I have too much free time on my hands it seems. :rofl:
Good luck with your writing! You have a great imagination and a knack for writing the gory stuff! :grin:


#5

This is helpful so far


#6

You have a good start as far as a first draft goes. It’s normal to leave out or have missing punctuation when we first start writing. Because we’re writing lol. We just want to write. My suggestion is after you’ve finished writing, check for punctuation. You can use Grammarly or ProWritingAid. Both are free. Both help will find those pesky mistakes.

My other suggestion is to step into the MC’s shoes more. Become the character. Write out her emotions; internal thoughts and feelings. And don’t be afraid to use the five senses.


#7

As others are saying, commas will help. But also think about creating a flow that rises and falls, instead of droning on with the same sentence length. Split up some of those long sentences into shorter ones. Experiment with dashes or semicolons!

And remember to cut out saying stuff like, “It was pretty cold” or, “I was afraid”. That’s the “telling” part of the “show, don’t tell” rule that gets thrown around a lot. Instead, describe how the character specifically felt the cold or experienced fear. Were their fingers cold? Their toes? Could they no longer feel their feet? Or for fear: Did their heart pound? Breath catch? Eyes widen?

And one more thing–find yourself a thesaurus and try to find some more interesting verbs to use! That can really spice things up after already hearing “looked” or “walked” a bunch :blush:

Hope that’s helpful!


#8

Maybe less telling and more showing would help.

“I knew something was off” how, why?

“I looked for sources for warmth and couldn’t find anything I was afraid and knew that…” more telling, show over telling and you should fix these issues. SHOW your protagonist in desperation, looking for shelter.


#9

First thing that jumps out at me is repetitive sentences starts. You have a lot of sentences and paragraphs that start with I. It’s hard to do in first person, but try to change it up.

Show some feelings too. Instead of something like “it was pretty cold” you can show the character trying to warm themselves up somehow. Maybe they’re jumping in place, rubbing their hands against their light jacket, some kind of action that show’s it’s cold. At the same time don’t over describe. Like noticing the character wearing a heavy jacket, is that important? Does it matter what that person was wearing?


#10

Agree. The lack of punctuation is very distracting.


#11

To add on to the punctuation, I want to specify that it’s not just commas missing. Adding them in wouldn’t fix all of the issue; sometimes they would just create a new one.

For example, your first sentence:

There are three complete thoughts here:
“It was pretty cold out and I knew something was off”
“I couldn’t see very far in front of me”
“I was freezing and had a light jacket on”

Each of them have their own subject and verb. Simply putting commas among them wouldn’t fix anything; it would turn the run-on into a run-on with comma splices.

Comma splices are what happens when you link two independent clauses with a comma and no conjunction. If you want to link independent clauses, you have to either use a semicolon or include the appropriate conjunction. The first of those three thoughts above is a run-on with a conjunction, but no comma.

It was pretty could out and I knew something was off
You can see how both of those bold areas have a subject and verb. They are both independent clauses because they could stand on their own. Having “and” there links them, but a comma is necessary to separate the independent clauses. If one was dependent, then just a comma or just a conjunction (depending on the sentence) would’ve been fine.

Semicolons work like commas and periods combined; they link two independent clauses together that relate to one another, while also omitting any necessity for a conjunction.

Run-on sentences appear rather frequently throughout your passage, and they can be very distracting. I wanted to go a bit in-depth about punctuation so that your options were clearer, but I know I didn’t explain it that well. Comma splices can be just as distracting to me as a reader, so I wanted to give a bit more clarification on how to fix the punctuation without creating a different issue entirely.

Your story itself is fine! If you want to work on your style, I’d suggest reading up on punctuation. Other people have pointed out a few other things to change, but I don’t want to make this longer than it is.

I hoped this was somewhat helpful!


#12

I see a lot more periods missing than commas…


#13

I’ll go through it paragraph by paragraph. :wink:

So, right off the bat, I can tell that you have a lot of run-on sentences. As many others have said, there’s a lack of commas, but also a lack of periods. A run-on sentence doesn’t mean you’re missing commas, it might mean that you’re just missing periods as well.

The second thing I noticed was how you’re relying on “telling” more than “showing.” Before I move on, let me explain what the difference is…

Telling is where you’re just giving us information. So in your example, saying, “It was pretty cold out…” is giving us the obvious. Showing, on the other hand, is where you’re using context clues based on the environment, reactions, and actions so we know what is happening. To rewrite your sentence, you can say something like: “I turned my face away from the bitter air that nipped at my skin.” You can continue with extra details like shoving the character’s fists into their pockets, burying their face in a scarf that hung around their neck, how they shivered when the breeze picked up speed. All of these details will tell your reader, “Oh, they’re cold.”

Another way to show in writing is to do it in the moment. So, for example, instead of saying something like, “My friend, Jane, is a huge reader!” you can have a scene where your character tries to interact with Jane who has her nose stuck in a book, and while she’s trying to finish a chapter, your character can look around and see all the books around the room. They could even make an estimate and say, “She probably had over two hundred books.” Like I said, it’s based on the context clues.

While that is the difference between showing and telling, this doesn’t mean you should avoid telling at all costs. You’re going to tell at some point. The trick is to know when you should tell. Faster paced scenes like action and where your character isn’t going to be too invested in the details and environment around them, you might often tell more. This is because if you show during these scenes, it’ll drag on the scene and make it boring. Slower paced scenes, however, such as experiencing something for the first time or being immersed into the details and environment, you will often show more. This is because if you tell during these parts, it will feel like you went too fast and you didn’t develop the scene properly. It’ll make your readers think it’s incomplete.

If I were to give a ratio, you might tell 30-40% of the time while you might show 60-70% of the time.

Anyway

So, as I have previously said, using more showing for this scene.

…and I knew something was off I couldn’t see far in front of me I was freezing and had a light jacket on.” There are multiple periods and commas that are needed here:

…It was pretty cold out, and I knew something was off. I couldn’t see very far in front of me. I was freezing and had a light jacket on.

Another thing to mention: try to avoid “very.” It can be a weak word at times, and most of the time, you can use something better in replacement as a more define vocabulary word. For this, I’d just say it’s better to have “…couldn’t see far in front of me.”

It also might be worth mentioning to describe more of the environment. Where is this person? Where are they going? What does it look like? Why was it cold (was it snowing, for example)?

I couldn’t remember anything I was stranded in a blizzard and was probably going to die. I looked for sources of warmth and couldn’t find anything I was afraid and knew that I was going to freeze.” Again, more missing punctuation marks and whatnot that I’ve already discussed before.

What could she not remember? Again, where is she? What makes her think she was going to die? What do you mean by “sources of warmth”? Why was she afraid?

I couldn’t remember anything. I was stranded in a blizzard, and I was probably going to die. I looked for sources of warmth and couldn’t find anything. I was afraid and knew that I was going to freeze.

Since there’s a repetition of what I’ve said before (lack of showing, lack of punctuation), I’m just going to skip over telling that and place an example of the corrected version in a blockquote (like I have been doing). It’ll appear at the end of my analysis.

Anyway…

The first thing that I realize is that this person isn’t walking in the street… they’re… on a mountain of sort? This is kind of why you need to describe the surroundings so your readers aren’t confused. You have to walk us through a “step-by-step” of what’s going on so we can visualize the story. You might think you’re doing this, but you have to be careful on how you write it because it’s easy to just give vague information. As a writer, you need to understand that your reader can’t see what you’re seeing.

For example, I can instantly visualize a scene where my character is sitting on a leather couch, drinking some hot tea with a fire going in front him, a book in his hand, and being in his cozy cottage in the winter. But if I simply write: “I sat on a chair and read, all warm and snuggled…” my reader is going to form a totally different scene.

You don’t have to give us everything, but you need to give us enough information to go off of so we can visualize the scene correctly.

So, in this, you need to describe where your character is. Are they walking by a cliff-side? Are they climbing a mountain? And how far did they drop? What damage was done to their appearance and physical body? Go through a list of questions of what could’ve happened. Ask yourself things like: How? What? When? Where? Why? Who?

You want to do this with every scene, even with other things happening. For example, when you had said that your character noticed someone sitting, what do you think your character thought they were sitting at? Living room? Kitchen? Describe “there.” And from just that simple look, what was that character doing—or rather, possibly doing? Could they be staring at a TV? Eating dinner at the kitchen table? Staring out into space? Talking with someone? Listening to music? Writing? Reading? Drawing? WHAT?

I also noticed how you use a lot of “I’s.” I like to call this the “I-Disease.” Now, you can’t get rid of a lot of them because your story is in first person. So a lot of “I’s” is gonna happen. However, instead of doing something like “I did this, I did that…” try to break it up. First, you can try to combine some sentence together. For example: “After knocking at the door with no answer, I looked in the window again.” The trick is to rewrite your sentences. The second way is to give more details of the surroundings and whatnot. For example: “I noticed a nearby cabin with a lantern inside. The small, wooden cabin appeared to have been around for years, possibly decades. There was wood that was chipping away, and the steps to the front porch were in half. I walked closer to the building, now noticing someone sitting by a window, sipping a cup of liquid. Could it be coffee?

Be slow and approach your descriptions cautiously.

Also, I noticed that you skipped what happened after she “pulled herself up.” For one, what platform did she pull herself up to? And secondly, what happened after she pulled herself up? Did she continue walking? Did she brush off the mud from her clothes and checked herself from scratches or bruises? Had something caught her eye in the distance, like maybe the cabin? <— Actually, what made her notice the cabin?

I walked for a bit before sliding on some ice and rolling down a mountain. I latched onto something before I fell. With my last bit of strength, I pulled myself up. I noticed a nearby cabin with a lantern inside. I walked over to the cabin and noticed someone sitting there. I knocked on the door. There was no answer, so I looked in the window again.

Okay, so… what made her decide it was a good idea to open the door to a stranger’s house? Of course, you can say that, in her defense, she was in a horrible state. You know with freezing and whatnot. But what was her thought process before opening the door? What made her think the person would welcome her into her home by trespassing onto their property?

This is another thing that I’ve noticed in here: you lack the emotions and thoughts from your character. First person is a pain to write because how descriptive it’s needing to be. As a first person writer, you need to pull out the character’s thoughts and feelings and write them accordingly based on the moment. You can have them think of past experiences, question the future, think of the present, and argue with themselves about their decisions. In a basic sense, think of yourself as the character. How would you feel (physically and emotionally) and what would you be thinking if you were in their situation?

The further I went into the paragraph, the more I was kind of confused. Of course, you can answer more of the questions later down the road. But as a first-coming reader, I’m not entirely too sure what’s fully going on here. Like, okay. The dude is dead. But uh, why would they die? And if they were dead, why was the murderer hanging around?

Another thing I want to point out: try to avoid filter words. Filter words are things like, “I heard,” and “I saw,” and “I felt,” and “I smelled.” It can be simple to get rid of them by just removing it. “There was a noise.” “Twigs cracked below my feet.” “A cabin was down the mountain.” So and so forth. However, for your excerpt, I think it’d be better to describe a bit more of this noise. What did it sound like? Was it a footstep? Was it a squeak in the floorboards? Was it breathing?

I opened the door slowly. The person in the room, whom was wearing a heavy coat, hadn’t moved. I tapped on their shoulder. When they didn’t move again, I was afraid. Blood poured out of their neck. A shock went through my body. There was a noise and I turned, a horrifying figure standing there with a bloody mask.

The choreography was off in here because of the way you don’t describe where the character is in the cabin. Like I had mentioned before, you want to go through a procedure of where the characters are located so your reader understands what is going on. Personally, I thought the dead guy was sitting at a table right next to the front door. So when the character went in, they immediately tapped their shoulder and noticed they were dead. But now, this just made me more confused because… she fell out of a window? Where was this window? Was it next to her? Because in my head, I thought the window was small and was completely blocked from the dead guy in front of it… :thinking:

Map out where the characters are in the story and how the murderer sneaks up on your MC. Then figure out, based on what happens to the MC, where they go. I don’t think a simple slice in the stomach will make them fall out of a window. I thought they’d just fall down or something? I’m not too sure.

This will also be a good time to explain how the slash made her feel. Of course it was painful, but what had it felt like? How much blood was she losing? Was it a huge gap, with organs falling out, or like a good scratch as if a cat sliced your arm open? Or was it like slicing open your skin with a regular knife, but just not breaking any major muscle tissue?

Also, how big and muscular was this guy? I mean, how the heck could he bust through the wall? And why did he anyway? There’s a perfectly good door he could walk through…

The figure breathed heavily. His terrifying blood smile drawn onto the mask made me want to run as far as I could. He walked slowly toward me, slashing open my stomach with a single slice of his machete. I fell out a window and crawled away slowly. I heard the wall bust open and he walked towards me, menacingly.

Okay, so I know I’m repeating myself here, but I mean… where is the cabin? Is it on a cliff-side too?

And I’m pretty sure that if your character “smashed open their head,” they’d be dead instantly. So they probably wouldn’t be thinking about death. Their last thoughts could be death, but that is dependable because… well, I’m not too sure what happens when you die. :woman_shrugging:

However, I also don’t think it would give your character enough time to write about their experiences within the last couple of hours or minutes (?) in a notebook. And even if they did, where had this notebook come from? When had they pulled it out to write? Why did they have a random notebook with them?

There’s just a lot of questions with unclear answers. That’s all I can say about this excerpt, honestly. Questions don’t necessarily mean a bad thing, though, because you can definitely answer them later on in the chapter, scene, or story, but you want to make sure you get a lot of the major answers out first such as the questions I mentioned earlier (how, what, when, where, why, and who). Because, like I said before, your readers can visualize it better that way. They learn what’s happening as they continue through your story, and like a movie, they get to see what’s going on inside their head as it’s happening.

I looked at him, but lost my grip. I slipped off the mountain, smashing my head open. I laid on the ground, thinking about death.
. . .
If you found this notebook, I’m dead.

So, on an overall look, your idea is good, but the way it’s executed needs improvement. The main problem that I see would be, as I’ve said in my previous comments, the lack of emotions and thoughts, the lack of immersive detail, the lack of punctuation and grammar, the lack of showing, and the fact how you rely heavily on the “I-Disease.”

These are all things you can, of course, improve on. But I wouldn’t say they’re a part of your writing style. I think your writing style is trying to be quick on the descriptions for a “better effect” and also using smaller paragraphs (and potential sentences when they’re not run-on sentences) as a way to create suspense. If this is how you would describe your writing style, then I think there isn’t much wrong with it. You just need to be careful on when you can be quick on descriptions because if you’re too quick during a slow scene (such as your beginning—you should’ve been slower since you want to immerse the reader into the environment and lifestyle your character was in), it can backfire and make it look like you rushed into it. Which is something you obviously don’t want.

In a nutshell, I advise to read published stories (particularly similar to your own, but it doesn’t have to be—as long as it’s within the same genre at least) so you can analyze how those stories are written. You can learn a lot from published writers by just reading their books: their descriptions, their vocabulary, their sentence and paragraph structure, and so on.

You can also do a few experimental prompts where you think of something that happened with yourself and write it down as a short story. For example, if you recently experienced an embarrassing moment, you can write a short essay about how that went. Where were you? What had happened? How did you feel? Who was there with you? What had the room or area look like? How did you get embarrassed? When had it happened? Answer these questions in a chronologically order (from before the moment happened to after it happened), and then write it as if you were trying to write a scene for it in a story. :wink:


#14

First of all, I didn’t read the other replies.

This reads like a summary. It’s hard to tell from it how well you’d do if you wrote something in the style of a novel or even a short story. I think a short excerpt from a novel would be better for judging writing style than a summary. Since it is a summary, it is mainly telling and not much showing. It progresses fast and is written in a purely descriptive, unemotional way. Therefore it does not build up any suspense.

I do not see any messiness, except for a lack of punctuation. You sometimes write several sentences in a row without separating them by a period or at least a comma.


#15
  1. Heavy use off filter verbs. (to see, to hear, to smell, to notice, to speak, to realize…)

Readers get told what is happening through the MC (I noticed, I couldn’t see, I realized) which causes a distance to the readers.It would be better to describe what the character is actually experiencing.

“Cold seeped through my light jacket. The heavy fog obscured the path in front of me.” or “I opened the door. The man in the room didn’t turn around. The heavy coat draped around his shoulders couldn’t hide the blood that poured from a slash on his neck.”

  1. Stage direction:

You describe the events as they unfold in a precise and clinic fashion. There is no world building, sensory details, or descriptions to draw readers into the plot.

  1. Pacing

The whole thing feels rushed. I would probably write 2000 words for the same scene.

  1. Lack of tension/suspense/emotional responses

Even though the scene could come across as suspenseful and tense, it reads bland. Some of this is related to pacing and stage direction, others to the lack of emotional responses. For example, even after the guy slashed her with the machete, there is no pain, fear, reflection on life. Simply nothing. You just describe what happens next in almost a robotic way.

  1. Echos and punctuation.

There are tons of echoes (the same words used in quick succession) and the whole excerpt needs tons of commas and periods. I’d suggest reading it out aloud since that often helps.


#16

I liked it.
It was clear and the words were easily understandable to everyone but I found some issues which I wanted you to look upon.

  1. PUNCTUATIONS- Use more punctuations more.
  2. SYNONYMS- Use synonyms. I found some words repetitive. See every word even though it has the same meaning gives a different impact to the sentence. Example-
    He was very happy.
    He was estactic.
    The sentence has the same meaning but they give a different impact.
    3.DESCRIPTION- Description is good but at certain places, the flow is missing. Through the window what the person is seeing can be described a little more. Like the lights, surroundings and everything. It will give a reader a image in mind. The tense situation of the scene, the heaviness, that’s majorly missing.
    4.FEELINGS- You hadn’t described well anything apart from the characters fright. Give more insight into what exactly the character is feeling in the situation. That’s missing.

Rest is all fine.
Considering its the first draft, there will be a lot of changes and the final draft will be wonderful.


#17

It’s extremely hard to crtique this because with the last sentence, you have set the premise that this is the journal account of someone who is clinging to life.

So yes the “writing” is poor because - the punctuation is lacking, there is more telling than showing, the sentence structure is repetitive with way too many thoughts beginning with “I” and so on.

However, someone with their guts spilling, who just fell down the side of a mountain and smashed their skull open, probably isn’t worried about style. I’d venture to guess that in a moment like that you’d try to scrawl out the story as quickly as possible.

So I suppose the sample is effective in that respect - But it’s not particularly enjoyable to read.

Now if the story were to flash backward after this beginning and we read the prior journal entries that brought the character to this last rambling entry, and those first entries are written without all of the mistakes in this segment (so it has better punctuation, more description to show us the story, variation in sentences) - well that could be very interesting and show your skill set as a writer more accurately than this small excerpt does.

I’ve utilized a “journal style” premise myself. There are all manner of small writing “mistakes” in that story, because they are there with a purpose - the character is a sixteen year old high schooler, not a professional author. However, the character aspires to be a writer and so she tries to engage her imaginary readers with her stories, not just quickly recount her days.

If she simply said “I got up and I brushed my teeth then I went downstairs and argued with my little brother during breakfast and my Dad yelled at us. So I left for school and met my best friend before first period…” then you’d be bored to tears reading that.

So even in an action/thriller/horror story, if your style amounts to this for the entirety of the tale, it will be very difficult to keep readers.