My Writing Style - and Influencers
What is my style? Who has influenced
my writing? If you haven't read my work yet, knowing this might help you
to decide if my work is for you!
"Bruce had killed fifteen minutes in Bath Abbey and ten minutes
admiring the river from Grand Parade before he crossed Pulteney Bridge."
And the following is from The
Grave Concerns of Jennifer Lloyd. This illustrates the very
direct first-person POV used by the protagonist and narrator, in which
she talks to the reader, her presumed friend:
"Did you ever receive a threatening letter? Hopefully not. It's
not nice, but I guess I brought it on myself. . ."
The latter style builds a very close relationship with
the lead character and, hopefully, creates a great reader empathy. It
does, of course, introduce its own demands, and that aspect has to be
carefully considered before an author chooses a first-person approach.
When I first visualised Jennifer Lloyd, she came through to me so strongly
she 'demanded' this very direct viewpoint.
First-person POV is normally restricted to showing you
the thoughts of the character, and that is easier to handle. But in
the more direct form shown above, that character actually addresses
the reader. You might argue that is a form of authorial intrusion
(discussed below), but there is a significant difference between an
author talking directly to the reader and a character
doing so! When it's the author, he intrudes into the story
and pulls you out of that imaginary world; when it's a character, the
character lives and breaths! However, style consistency is
everything in first-person.
I often like to inject a little humour
into my novels, where appropriate, and that even goes for my
more serious non-fiction work: Reality
Check: Science Meets Religion - because that lightens something
that could otherwise become rather deep.
As for influencers, this is only relevant
for my fiction. I have my own unique style for non-fiction, developed
over many years, and that is always to 'keep it simple'; the latter
results from decades of writing manuals for commercial and military
Now let's focus on fiction. I like to get inside the head and study
the psyche of those unwittingly caught up in circumstances
which are very much beyond their control: for that unpredictability
- or danger - is what makes a novel more interesting. The
reader wants to know what happens to the hero.
Here are some of the authors whom I greatly admire and who may, therefore,
have had some subconscious - but not conscious - influence on my style.
They all write really well and include:
Sophie Hannah -crime from the viewpoint
of those most affected
Robert Goddard - ordinary people put
in extraordinary circumstances
Jodi Picoult - great character and plot
John Irving - unusual characters and
Peter Carey - similar to John Irving,
often with a humorous twist
Gillian Flynn - with her psychological
Alexander McCall Smith - brilliant characters,
Pat Conroy - locations, strong characters
and control freaks
A. J. Cronin - an early influencer in
I am interested in creating very real characters. I
really admire the way Jodi Picoult both gets
into the heads of her principal characters and researches her major themes
so deeply. To me, characterisation is rather more about their psyche than
their physicality - readers whip-up their own images of characters, anyway.
So forget the Sherlock Holmes image of someone with a shuffling limp as
a handle, and instead think about how a character behaves in given scenarious
and how they speak and move. That's what I try to do.So far as fiction
is concerned, I always like an interesting twist to the
plot; or, if possible, several! I like readers to think: 'I didn't see
I like to create realistic scenes. Wherever possible
the setting is somewhere I've been. This is the art of 'creating a sense
of place'. Not only does that chime with a reader who knows it, it helps
me to visualise it when writing.
One of my strongest aims to to try to keep away from authorial
intrusion. Creative Writing classes go on about 'show not tell'.
While this was the last thing that the most famous authors of the past
were concerned about, it is a good maxim, and one I try to follow. Basically,
if an author describes a scene from a third-person point-of view, the
reader is aware of the author's presence in their head. What I try to
do is to describe a scene as naturally observed by one of my characters,
because you then observe it through their head. That avoids breaking the
spell and keeps your head in the scene and makes the author invisible.
This is more difficult than just diving in and describing a scene, of
course, but it's worth it. I have noticed that well established novelists
often throw this principle to the wind, perhaps in order to increase their
literary output - and, maybe, their pecuniary input - but aspiring authors
would do well to remember the principle, for it is likely to be one of
the judgements agents and publishers apply.
Here's an extract from The
Grave Concerns of Jennifer Lloyd which shows how a description
is perceived to be from the protagonist's point of view:
"The hallway was large, the floor a highly polished marble, the
walls papered in a rich red flock, and the pictures, of what I assumed
were relatives, were resplendent in ornate gold frames . . ."
The phrase shown in italics above is evidence we are seeing
the scene through the eyes of the character and not reading the author's
I also like to start my novels with a kick. Well, you do have to hook
the reader pretty quickly, don't you?
You might say that my latest novel, called The
Grave Concerns of Jennifer Lloyd, might be the results of Gillian
Flynn meeting Sophie Hannah, although I think the pace is quicker than
in their typical stories. I believe this is the best novel I have written
so far with respect to characterisation. Authors should improve with age,
like a good wine! (If that is so, I ought to be rather more intoxicating
Flying a Kite
was a rather different novel because it is contemporary fiction on the
surface but similar in thought to novels produced by Wm
Young (The Shack) and James Redfield
(The Celestine Prophecy). A Book
Viral reviewer said it is comparable to both of these. It differs
from The Shack in that it presents a more biblical approach to
the Trinity, and from The Celestine Prophecy because it actively
talks about God (rather than mysterious forces). Having made these comparisons,
I have to say it was not influenced by either because I was writing it
at the same time as Young was writing The Shack, and I hadn't
at that time even discovered The Celestine Prophecy series. I
had already writing a non-fiction eBook called Reality
Check: Science Meets Religion - the title says all - and what I discovered
in my research for that became source material for use within Flying
a Kite. Because I didn't want the solid underlying research to
be lost in Kite, I included End Notes in the novel which provides
links, via this website, to the supporting research and science. I think
my characterisation is deeper in Kite than that in Shack
and Prophecy - but I reckon I occupy a similar place to James
Redfield with respect to belief.
I NEVER try to copy anyone else's style; that would be an anathema for
me, and it should be for other writers. All I am trying to do here is
show how other authors' approach to writing may either have inspired me,
or be similar enough for new readers to realise my work might be on interest
because they already like those writers.
"A fine melding of mystery thriller and contemporary fiction. An inspired touch allows for a timely infusion of humour. Kingsley's first-person narrative paves the way for a cracking denouement." (Stephan J. Myers - Book Viral)
"From its first paragraph, The Grave Concerns draws readers in with a flash and a bang. Can a TV reporter who has invented her career solve murders that baffled the police? What happens when she truly has to face down a murderer? It's a powerful, compelling read that's hard to put down." (D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review)
"Jennifer Lloyd is not the superwoman lead of some mystery novels, yet neither is she a simpering fool. Ian Kingsley has created a charming and real young woman whose ambition and logic usually prevail, but who has genuinely believable faults which could also be her undoing. The narrative style allows Jennifer to speak directly to her audience, creating a sometimes cosy atmosphere which is engaging to read, but also allowing access straight into the character's mind at the most tense moments of the plot." (K. C. Finn, Readers' Favorite)
WHAT PEOPLE SAY about earlier novels...
FLYING A KITE...
"Tight writing… using dialogue to give just enough detail to hook us into the story, leaving the snippets of backstory until the reader is well and truly engrossed. Great stuff!" (Jo Carroll, author of Over The Hill And Far Away)
"Characters are direct and effective. I enjoyed the pace which allows the reader to think about the important concepts by himself." (Heikki Hietala, author of Tulagi Hotel)
"Fluent, graphic writing and excellent use of description... Characters alive with captivating dialogue." (Elijah Iwuji, author of Praying in the Will of God)
"Readers can't help turning the pages compulsively as we are seduced with small details and quick punchy dialogue... nothing is as it seems... it made me think I was watching a movie focusing on several characters that are all subtly interwoven into the threads of each other's lives... a novel you may want to re-read, once for the sheer thrill of the story, and again to fully absorb its implications." (Norm Goldman - Amazon.com Top 500 Reviewer)
"I found this a gripping book that was hard to put down. The characterisations and dialogue are very realistic and good. All in all a very enjoyable read. I'll be keeping an eye out for any future Ian Kingsley fiction." (C. Thwaite - Amazon.co.uk)