On the Huffington Post, Michael Conniff articulates something I have thought about for years. His article on Stephen King examines how King emphasizes storytelling over style in his execution of narratives even though his writing advice advocates for style as the magic of story.
This is the general attitude of genre writing. The assumption I have seen among the general genre community of writers is that “story” and “style” can be divorced. However, when words (and hence their styling) are the medium of the storytelling, then how is this possible? I often hear, “I am not a writer; I am a storyteller,” “Writing pretty sentences is easy; writing a plot is tough.” I’ve heard those giving writing advice insult literary fiction on the grounds of the genre being plotless and more concerned with style than substance. However, one most be careful not to confuse plot with narrative. A narrative can be the plot, but the narrative can also be the character. That is usually how genre and literary works differ. For literary fiction, the story is the character, and sometimes the plot is diffused for deeper exploration of this principle.
First, I would argue that “good writing” depends on what you are penning. A lyrical examination of human grief does not necessitate the same style as a car chase. A contemporary novel centered around two fifteen-year-olds falling in love will not employ the same language as the story of a fifty-year-old woman coming to terms with her husband’s death. Lyrical writing is often the stereotype of “pretty writing,” but it’s a tool. There is a time to employ it, and a time not to. It can be expressive in one story but antiquated in another.