Improve storytelling by flexiblity in writing style.

A few literary-fiction storytellers effortless adjust to setting changes, different narrator perspectives, and point of view shifts. Most writers must work to develop changes in writing style when story scene requires improvement for reader acceptance. Her are a few skills that might be considered.


A. More elaborate prose.

Helen wanted commitment—meaning us married and settled in her seventeen-room, early twentieth-century house in town with tennis court and three-car garage.  She believed if we changed the furniture and decorated with art we chose together, we could be happy newlyweds.  But every time I stepped into her house, memories of her ex-husband rustled around me in the walls like trapped rodents.  He was a sixty-four-year-old famous, successful neurosurgeon who was cavorting around Florida with his twenty-four-year-old office receptionist, who Helen and I thought too overweight and shaggy to be attractive to anyone but a lecherous older man still in midlife crisis. In truth, I could never replace her ex in his former home even though Helen insisted she had erased him from her life.  But I suspected she longed for the life they had created together, a life of almost constant in-home entertaining and guest-admiration, a life of uncramped comfort in her echo-filled interior permeated with shelved, walk-in closets, and eight-burner kitchen stove surrounded by acres of counter space.  Although I never confronted her, I knew she wanted legitimacy for our relationship to recreate her previous high-society life.

A. Less elaborate prose.

Helen believed we would be happy newlyweds living in her mansion. But for me, memories of her ex-husband, a sixty-four-year-old neurosurgeon cavorting in Florida with his twenty-four-year-old office receptionist, rustled in the house walls like trapped rodents. I could never replace her ex in his former home, even with her longing for legitimacy of our relationship to recreate her previous high-society privileged existence.


The Baker’s Grand Bakeoff Prize was won by me. (Passive–object emphasis)

I won the Baker’s Grand Bakeoff Prize. (Active–subject emphasis)

Use of passive tense or active tense can, at appropriate times, change the effect of prose on a reader.


The packed cable car left Fisherman’s wharf with a bell clang and a screech of steel on steel. Most of my fellow students carried birthday gifts for Mr. Faraday and in my right hand I clutched I a rolled white-paper banner that I had painted with purple-ink greeting and blue and red stars  The cable car nosed down after we turned onto Powell and we shifted our weight to remain as close to upright as possible; I teetered on an outer step of the car holding a hand rail while being jostled between a muscular middle-aged man in a skin-tight cyclist suit and aerodynamically sleek helmet and a reeking, unshaven, wrinkled old man in a torn, too-big, woolen overcoat.  Without warning, rain pelted my face, and I knew by the squishy feel of the banner it was ruined.

        Comment. Image-evoking nouns, adjectives, and action verbs, often enhance setting and characterization if maintenance of story momentum permits. Good judgment is necessary. Don’t overdo imagery when it is not effective for the story, but also, don’t fail to be competent when imagery is needed.

Thanks for reading! William H. Coles


Essays on Writing

What To Do for Writer’s Block


The Golden Flute
Short Story “The Golden Flute” by William H. Coles
The Necklace
Short Story “The Necklace” by William H. Cole

Leave a Comment