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Signature Style: Literature
  • David Foster Wallace: juxtaposition of informal abbreviations and slang with incredibly esoteric words, words which originally seem incredibly esoteric but end up being made up (usually somehow derived from Latin), the odd continued use of &c. instead of etc. (again with the esoteric Latin thing), compulsive use of footnotes (sometimes useless footnotes, sometimes carrying out entire storylines within footnotes), scenes which are both hilarious and heartbreaking (or disturbing but usually both), obscure connections which are absurd and profound and also pretty funny, &c. And the word "peripatetic," which he seemed to like as much as this wiki likes the word egregious.
  • J. K. Rowling seems to like every trope related to Chekhov's Gun. If a character, object, or place is mentioned in passing in an early books, it's almost guaranteed to show up later, usually in a role of vital importance. She also seems to like killing off characters just to show that death is harsh. She also seems fond of semicolons.
  • Peter David
    • He's quite fond of incredibly drawn-out, horrible puns (for example, in Sir Apropos of Nothing, taking a full page to explain why a group of crazy bird-men descended from harpies are called the Harpers Bizarre) and Ironic Echo Cut chapter breaks. He's also very fond of the adverb "nattily": if his work is set in modern times, expect everybody to be "nattily dressed."
    • David also enjoys the Running Gag. One notable example from one of his Star Trek novels had a Vulcan character simply trying to go from one part of the ship to another and constantly running into a string of people, from fellow crewmembers to an alien ambassador, who all insisted on telling her their current personal problems. She finally blows a gasket and demands to know why everyone was telling her. (Well, the closest to gasket-blowing a Vulcan usually gets, anyway.)
    • Another aspect of his Star Trek writing is a very thorough knowledge of the show, with in-jokes, Shout Outs, and obscure references everywhere. This is epitomized in Morgan Primus, who is, effectively, Majel Barrett Roddenberry. Primus has been mistaken for, compared to, or otherwise tied to each of the characters Majel has played in the Trek universe: Number One in the original pilot, Nurse Chapel, Lwaxana Troi...and so on. She eventually has her mind downloaded into the ship's computer. It takes a while for the crew to realize it, though, because guess who voices Federation computers on the show?
    • He also seems to be able to work in a throwaway reference to Alexander the Great somewhere in many things he's written.
  • Robert Rankin's style makes it obvious that he's making it up as he goes along, as he lampshades in one book, pointing out plot threads that don't go anywhere. Sometimes it works, and sometimes... it just doesn't.
  • Tom Holt has incredible fun with metaphors, cliches and truisms; if the book is full of metaphors taken to extremes, it's probably him. He also tends to feature mopey, nerdy males and rock-hard, super-efficient females. His stories also have an extremely cynical view of love, which is often portrayed as more of a nuisance or a disease than anything actually good.
  • Terry Pratchett
    • He's fond of irony, wordplay, humorous similes and puns.
    • He likes justifying the natural laws of his worlds as being governed by tropes and cliches, which people can use to their own advantage if they're Genre Savvy enough. The fact that his characters can usually predict what happens later in the story via recognition of tropes and cliches actually makes the stories less predictable.
    • His books also very rarely use conventional chapters.
    • His earlier works in particular like to play with the idea of unearthly eyes, and particularly the idea that the eyes are the only thing that no magic can disguise, providing a window to the true nature of the soul.
    • He is also well-known for his use of comedic footnotes, even requiring a Footnote character in the play version of some books, and one of his compilation books is titled Once More* With Footnotes. And he seems to love the words 'strata' and 'apologetic'.
    • Pratchett is inordinately fond of characters who immediately try to describe why a certain thing is funny before other characters could even react to the joke.
  • Piers Anthony:
    • He has a great love of wordplay and cliche. His Xanth series, in particular, is one great big Hurricane of Puns after another, but his other works can be similarly blunt and heavy-handed at times.
    • He makes nearly every protagonist a moral paragon who never does anything wrong and never fails at anything.
    • Another reoccurring theme in Anthony's works is nudity and sexuality, even in his young adult / teen series, Xanth. Anthony is pretty frank about his beliefs — he doesn't believe human nudity is harmful or shameful at all, and he remembers that most of the people of his target audience's age are actually quite curious about sexuality, despite what their parents may think. His works are never outright pornographic, but it skirts the boundaries enough (mermaids turning into humans and not knowing about clothes, princesses having to trade their clothes for a magic sword, that kind of thing) that he's been accused of being a pedophile on several occasions.
    • And also the use of children/extended family of characters he's already used, to the point where the Royal Family of Xanth is on something like its fourth generation.
    • He likes the words "demesnes" and "proffer."
  • Douglas Adams always has a narrator that goes off into tangents, Insane Troll Logic actually working and Contrived Coincidences. And Lampshading the ridiculousness of it all. His heroes are an Unfazed Everyman or a hypersavvy slacker. His works tend to have a lot of absurd humor that often correspond satirically with modern culture.
  • L. E. Modesitt, Jr. tells the same story over and over again in most of his books. It's a good story, though, people keep reading them anyway.
  • Mercedes Lackey, several of whose trilogies consist of telling the same story three times in a row, and who has even written a trilogy with a center book (Owlknight) in which essentially nothing happens (a barbarian invasion turns out at the climax to be boring peaceful settlers instead).
    • Another Mercedes Lackey signature: taking a character who has grown up living in serious misery without family, usually without real pleasures or more than one or two friends, then having them get swept up, as in a Changeling Fantasy, and taken to somewhere with good people and comforts, where there is hard work and good food. Said character never brings along the optional friend, nor do they ever go back, and they always turn into Standard Lackey Hero characters, who are all uniform in their goodness. There is a long period of adjustment where the character makes friends, and towards the very end there is a rushed conclusion. Seriously, this happens in very nearly every book, more often now than in her earlier work. It's alleviated significantly when she collaborates with different authors, though the book she wrote with Piers Anthony was cringe-worthy.
    • A key Lackey trademark is her standard protagonist development sequence, which has been summarized as "make the readers love and adore the hero, and then tear said hero's arms off."
    • Also, all of her villains are rapists or otherwise sexually deviant. All of them.
  • And Terry Brooks, many of whose Shannara novels resemble each other to a surprising degree.
  • Neal Stephenson's main characters are always incredibly smart, with a breadth of technical and practical knowledge. Often their friends are even more brilliant. The narrative will include meticulous analysis of wide range of subjects that Stephenson finds interesting, from the outright arcane to the humorously mundane. Some of these factor into the plot, and others are simple digressions. The writing style features quite a lot of dry humor, including the pet phrase: "X would like nothing more than Y. Which is too bad, considering he's Z right now." His novels, especially his early ones, are also notorious for having unsatisfyingly abrupt endings.
  • H.P. Lovecraft writes with Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness. Most of his stories are horror stories about eldritch abominations that humanity cannot fathom. Women don't come off very well in his stories, and overtly racist themes against dark-skinned people are common. Cats, however, are always treated with respect. Lovecraft also loved his home town of Providence. His plots often placed The Reveal at the end of the story. Often the climax would be the character discovering The Reveal, and at the end they would recall/ponder it for the reader. Also, his stories are almost always narrated in first person by male characters, and are often precisely dated.
  • Edgar Allan Poe also used Antiquated Linguistics, and if he wasn't writing a Dupin story, he usually featured a skeptical and normally problematic narrator that tried to face the supernatural reasonably, but ended engulfed by madness. His stories generally ended in a very abrupt, anti-climactic way. And there'd be a beautiful woman who had died or is dying.
  • Brian Jacques
    • He seems to love Wacky Wayside Tribes, rhyming prophecies, intense description of food, and making damn sure none of his heroes ever die. This last element has only slid in over time; while the earlier Redwall books were willing to let heroes die (Martin the Warrior and Outcast of Redwall most notably), the later ones have the "hero shield" at full power.
    • This doesn't apply in Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, which hasn't suffered the Redwall series's cumulative decay: the fisherman in the first book, the French captain in the second book, and Serafina in the third book all died rather horribly.
    • He also has a thing for giving characters names beginning with the letter M.
  • George R. R. Martin: sex (including what almost everybody would call perversion), intensely described violence (including against those generally exempt in sci-fi or fantasy, i.e. infants), wheels within wheels, and a general feeling that the author will not spare your pathetic sensibilities if he thinks it furthers theme, plot, or characterization. Expect to ask "Wait, who am I rooting for?" at least once.
  • R. A. Salvatore has described his combat scenes as "Crouching Panther, Hidden Dark Elf". They would not look out of place in anime or a Hong Kong martial arts flick. Including the over-the-top-ness.
  • Stephen King
    • He's known for frequent use of a distinctive
      writing style which incorporates the character's thoughts into a paragraph, typically
      breaking the standard paragraph structure as he goes along.
    • When he wrote using the pseudonym Richard Bachman, people suspected it was him based on his style.
    • The endless describing of daily life inconsequentia. This evens extends to simple actions the character performs. For instance, when a character kneels down, King will often point out that the character's knees cracked like gunshots as he did so.
    • He also tends to write stories featuring protagonists with similar characteristics to himself. In his early career, he often wrote about lower-class teachers. After his rise to success and car accident, his heroes often had great wealth, were a writer, and/or suffered a horrific injury with an agonizing recovery.
    • If the book is taking place in one of his many small towns in Maine, he has to have at least one chapter where he takes the reader out of the main narrative, and on a bird's eye trip around town to see what the minor characters are getting up to.
    • His characters tend to have very detailed back stories, which either fit (directly or indirectly) into the main plot of the book, or provide the characters with metaphors/stock phrases that will be used frequently when they're the viewpoint character. He also likes to tell you that a just-introduced character is about to die, and then give you the character's back story.
    • He likes using animals as viewpoint characters.
  • Michael Moorcock loves the initials J.C.. He did this quite deliberately, to show that they represented aspects of the same archetype.
  • Similarly, Philip Jose Farmer used the initial PJF to refer to his stand-ins, according to him. Given one was a sci-fi author who was defrauded by a publisher this clue was perhaps overkill.
  • The late Jack Chalker almost never wrote a book that didn't involve at least one character (and often all of them) physically transformed in some way, either to a different species, a different gender, a different kind of sapience, or some combination thereof.
    • To the point of reportedly getting quite upset when people kept asking him why all he wrote were transformation stories. His answer was "Nobody bought the non-transformation books." Reputedly, he got used to it when he realized every author with a shtick got asked the same thing.
  • Dan Brown, a renowned Conspiracy Thriller author, conspicuously and regularly re-uses plot elements and opening paragraphs. As for the actual writing style, Brown is fond of having multiple Plot Threads and shifting between them every 5 to 10 pages (his chapters are really short), usually with a What Cliffhanger? accompanying every shift. It either creates awesome thriller suspense or gets boring after the third page.
  • Chuck Palahniuk has a very distinct minimalist style of writing that he describes as explaining only the kernel of any given situation, with the action cutting and jumping around sporadically and tied in place by a common, repeating theme. Beyond that, he also tends to have very similar female characters from book to book.
    • He often fills his books with a number of interesting tidbits of knowledge as well as factoids that sound real but aren't.
    • Sentence fragments with no verb in them.
    • Dialogue with no quotation marks.
    • He's also very fond of Arc Words.
  • Gene Wolfe writes all of his stories in first person. With all the detail he adds, it gets really easy to trust the narrator. Don't.
  • Neil Gaiman has a distinct poetic bent to his writing and themes, which is just one of the things that make him popular with the goth crowd. Every line a Gaiman character utters can be quoted on its own as a lesson on life and magic and whatever.
  • James Joyce: All of his work is set in Dublin. He's also fond of epiphanies. Some consistent features of his work (which varied radically over his career) are musicality of prose, extremely efficient packing of meaning into as few words as possible (in the Dubliners story "Eveline", which is only about 1800 words long, he manages to convey the protagonist's socioeconomic status and level of education through a very brief, minimalist description of her going to the theatre; Finnegan's Wake is almost entirely based on applying this concept to nearly every single word of the text), very uncompromising depictions of characters' sexual thoughts and fantasies, and accurately conveying the natural rhythms of people's internal monologue.
  • William Faulkner hates you doesn't like you hates you you never had a sister Dalton Ames Dalton Ames Dalton Ames Dalton Ames Dalton Ames My father I have committed incest
    sister. Stream of consciousness, odd spacing
    hate you
    south.
    i dont hate it
    fish
    but he hates you
    • He also has a reputation for writing confusingly long sentence often creating long tracts without any punctuation
  • Djuna Barnes loves her statements that aren't nonsensical so much as they don't make sense. And she always makes blanket statements. And supremely illogical cultural references. And loads of sex, happening in the most absurd places.
  • Karen Traviss writes a lot of stories about military and war themes, especially if she can put scientists in there. Her protagonists and good guys tend to be hardasses and in general she adopts a War Is Glorious standpoint.
    • This comes from her background as a journalist reporting on military actions during the Blair Administration. Also, expect very tight 3rd person narration, where perspectives are skewed by the particular character's lack of information.
  • James Michener writes books where almost every plot follows a family that lives in a particular place through the generations, the title of the book simply being the setting.
  • Tennessee Williams writes a lot of mentally ill or physically disabled women (his dead little sister was schizophrenic), and a lot of his stuff is set in the Deep South. Also, expect men who are manly men, explicit discussion of any issues he wants to bring up, and... well, there's more. You'd know it if you saw it.
    • The aforementioned overt masculinity also carries over to his homosexual characters; see Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws and A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot. (Williams himself was gay.)
  • Diane Carey's Star Trek novels take Space Is an Ocean to almost absurd heights. She has worked on sailing ships in Real Life.
  • Diane Duane's Trek novels are full of Starfish Aliens with unpronounceable names, amazingly detailed and justified Techno Babble, gleefully subverted Planets of Hats, and Doctor McCoy being awesome.
  • Dean Koontz' supernatural works, at least, tend to feature some combination of dogs, Catholicism, California, and little kids. And, regardless if they're supernatural or not, sex. Quite a bit of sex. Also, the word "indefatigable."
  • William Shakespeare is fond of references to falconry, gardening, and hunting with dogs. He likes crossdressing themes, which was common in his day due to all female characters being played by crossdressing boys. He enjoyed pornographic innuendos and double-entendres. Twins pop up in a lot of his plays. Many of his plays are set in Italy.
  • Thomas Pynchon loves silly pop-culture references, names that sound meaningful but aren't, and not giving you any idea what's going on. Sophisticated as Hell terminology is not uncommon either.
  • The articles of Hunter S. Thompson tend towards a rambling stream-of-consciousness style, with many digressions and interjections from Thompson himself. He involved himself so much in the stories he reported that he became a central character in them - if not quite a hero. Much of his work was published unedited, pioneering the style he later dubbed "Gonzo journalism".
  • David Eddings:
  • Tom Clancy's novels tend to feature certain politically incorrect characterizations: liberals tend to be scheming and drug-using, while conservatives tend to be hard-working, honest, and red-blooded members of the American military. Every book ends with an "America Saves the Day" moment, as well.
  • Anything by Laurell K. Hamilton is almost certain to have a tiny, beautiful female main character who's a good little Catholic girl that has to deal with shameful shameful sexual urges and has lots and lots of sex that's treated as if it's the kinkiest thing since the Marquis de Sade, but is actually rather tame in comparison to almost anything you could see on Playboy TV. Oh, and random powerups. And mournful observation of religion/faith falling into decline.
  • Agatha Christie used a number of devices over and over in her works.
    • Multiple murders committed by different people.
    • Characters revealed to have been impersonating other characters.
    • If a person repeatedly survives attempts being made on their life, you can bet that that person is the killer.
    • Whoever is most likely to be the killer will naturally be innocent. This is logical, since a straightforward murder mystery wouldn't be much of a mystery. Still, the number of clues speaking to someone's guilt are often inversely proportional to that person's guilt.
    • Whoever is included on the novel's token romance(s) is innocent.
    • Characters accusing themselves of being the murderer in order to protect the person they know or believe to be the real killer. Subverted in Murder in the Vicarage, where both Lawrence Redding and Anne Protheroe frame themselves for the murder of Colonel Protheroe and admit, in turn, to being responsible (in an unusual ploy to actually shift blame from both of them)
  • J. R. R. Tolkien:
    • He had a habit of peppering his stories with references to far-away bygone people and places drawn from his own mythos that had nothing to do with the plot but made the setting feel more lived-in and natural.
    • He also LOVED describing landscapes. He could go on and on for pages and pages of purple prose, saying nothing more than "Gosh, look at these trees!"
    • He was also a big fan of Love at First Sight, since that was how he fell in love with his wife Edith, who is also directly responsible for the prominence of Gray Eyes among his characters.
  • Kurt Vonnegut: lots of free-association and repetition, nonstop Shooting the Shaggy Dog, Sick Sad Worlds with the bleakness turned up to 11, nonlinear storytelling, and the heaviest anvils he can lift.
    • He's also somewhat self-referential. Characters from one story will often reappear in the background of another. Perhaps the most obvious example is (fictional) science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, who tends to be referenced everywhere.
  • Anton Chekhov had a habit of ending his short stories in a way that doesn't really resolve the plot at all. The protagonist is usually a normal Russian man who Chekhov characterizes mostly through his flaws.
  • Ben Elton novels tend to have large ensemble casts and at least one, usually brutal, death or attempt on someone's life. They also tend to be overtly critical of one aspect of society, and achieve this criticism through sarcasm and exaggeration (Dead Famous and Chart Throb — reality television; Gridlock — society's dependence on cars and oil; Stark — big business in the 1980s; This Other Eden — DAMN NEAR EVERYTHING).
  • John "A PC" Hodgman writes his books in a perfectly deadpan, neutral tone, and just happens to drop the occasional incredibly humourous comment into his rhetoric. A Long List is quite likely, too. He also enjoys occasionally breaking into ALL CAPS.
  • The original James Bond writer Ian Fleming often includes expositions on locations he had visited, and especially foods and drink which he was himself fond of. Expect the phrase "the gun spoke its word" to appear rather frequently too. The attitudes of the characters are also highly recognisable once one gets used to them. And any woman's breasts will be described as "proud and firm". Except maybe Bond's caretaker's.
    • He also likes "cruel" as an adjective to describe people's looks, most commonly Bond's mouth or jaw.
  • Ursula Vernon's writing can be recognized by her use of people who supply contraceptives to "Seamstresses", weird animals (commonly shrews or wombats, some times furries) and general weirdly flash-bang, yet Pratchett-esque, often footnoted, style.
    • She also tends to give her fictional cultures a detailed and unique culture, customs, traditions, idioms, and so forth, often sewn together from real-world parts. Probably not surprising, given that she used to be an anthropologist and turned to art "because the pay was better, which should tell you something about anthropology."
    • Her art is what brought us the Lol Whut pear.
    • Lolwhut aside, her usual art also involves the combination of normal concepts (for example, a painting of grazing wildlife) with bizarre objects or characters (the wildlife is fruit), with at least a paragraph's worth of backstory on the art piece itself (a nature-book-esque description of the fruit's habitat and behavior in the wild).
    • Well-described camping and expeditions, including equipment. She's a birder, but that, oddly, doesn't turn up much.
  • Terry Goodkind's characters are always angry, tired, confused or otherwise affected; there is rarely a scene where everybody present is in a balanced state of mind. He also has a tendency to have at least one character present in most serious discussions who's holding the Idiot Ball for the duration of the scene and has to have things explained to them plain and simple.
  • Andre Norton tended to have female characters orphaned as babies and raised by animals or other nonhumans who improvised clothing for them early on, despite generally not wearing clothing themselves. She also liked cats.
  • Aaron Allston, one of the writers of the X-Wing Series, has a very distinct sense of humor which manifests in absurd or mocking bits of dialogue. Every character with more than a couple lines has some kind of quirk, which at least means that when anyone dies the reader's response is never "Who?", and his writing is intensely character-driven. He's also got a tendency to put in background female characters who are very muscular.
  • James Patterson italicizes everything of any importance. Also, half-page chapters, and switching POV from first-person to third-person.
  • Raymond E. Feist loves to use the words "alien" and "quietly" as often as possible, especially chapters/segments which begin with "(character name) sat quietly."
    • He also opens the majority of his chapters with a three or four word sentence, beginning in Magician with "The storm had broken.".
  • Larry Niven writes about Giant Space Structures (the ringworld, the smoke ring), sex between different alien species, and really long alien names with lots of a'postr'oph'es in them.
  • Cormac McCarthy doesnt use many apostrophes when writing speech and he doesnt use speech marks to indicate dialogue and the Deep South or the west are common settings and he frequently uses 'and' a lot in a sentence. Furthermore, he's partial to esoteric word choices as well as run-on sentences, and sentences of unusually long length, one example being a page-and-a-half long sentence in Blood Meridian. Also, he often has a character repeat what someone else has said.
    Character One: Like how?
    Character Two: Like this.
    Character One: Like this.
    Character Two: That's right.
  • Twilight: Stephenie Meyer is fond of portraying human/nonhuman romances, with all of the main characters being implausibly gorgeous (and described with lots and lots of Purple Prose). She also has a thing for the word "chagrin," as well as "dazzled" and "perfect", and the color beige. She describes characters' daily lives in a highly detailed manner, which drags her books out to borderline Door Stopper lengths. Most of these are traits that could be considered a stereotypical Signature Style of teenage girls writing fanfiction.
  • Tamora Pierce has a mildly amusing habit of describing a character's clothing in detail. This lead to one famous scene where Alanna of Tortall, hardened warrior, is talking to a friend about someone else's poor fashion choices while changing. "Can you imagine?"
    • Well, her heroines, for the most part, do tend to (at least try) represent strong, yet still feminine women
    • The final book in any Tortall Universe quartet will be a bloodbath, where Anyone Can Die. The most likely candidates for the chop are roguish, quick-thinking, highly competent characters who often have friendly rivalry with the protagonist, such as Faithful, Liam and Alan {Lioness), Rikash {Immortals), Gilab Lofts (Protector of the Small) and Tunstall (Provost's Dog — with a particularly cruel twist). Bring hankies for the finale.
  • John Green really likes his well-spoken and well-read teenagers and deconstructing the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (or guy) trope. And driving, too: His characters will be spending a considerable amount of time on the road.
  • Michael Crichton books inevitably share the same plot: "Scientist discovers or creates something. Protagonist warns the scientist that he hasn't considered the consequences. Discovery and/or creation Goes Horribly Wrong. Protagonist saves the day. Protagonist says "I told you so" and scientist maybe or maybe not learns his lesson that Science Is Bad, or at least misapplied. The end." Also, the "going horribly wrong" part is usually not because of a single glaring error, but several smaller mistakes or accidents that compound one another. If it's mentioned casually that something isn't optimal, but it shouldn't be an issue because of all the other security precautions ... trust us, it will turn out to be an issue.
  • Doctor Who. Lawrence Miles' input on the Expanded Universe novel makes your brain feel like it was shoved in a blender set to "puree", and features people doing exceptionally odd things to Time.
  • Jim Butcher of The Dresden Files and Codex Alera fame really, really likes political intrigue, characters with ulterior motives, complex and out of the ordinary strategies in battle, characters playing Xanatos Speed Chess, unique and unexpected application of magic, sleep deprivation and soldiering on in the face of massive physical trauma. There's also non-human psyches, the idea of most supernatural creatures being like predators and being "less likely to attack if you don't show fear", and the whole idea of creating ice by pulling the heat out of the air or water. Other traits include strong female characters, emotionally intense scenes of all kinds, Mood Whiplash between scenes, and justified Rule of Cool, particularly of the Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot and Cool Versus Awesome varieties.
  • James Clavell liked to write large novels set in or around Asia, featuring Loads and Loads of Characters and intricate, interwoven plots from both the protagonist's and antagonist's sides of the stories. His books are usually divided into shorter "books" or chapters that encompass a period of time (from three years in King Rat to ten days in Noble House). Also, at least one main character will die at the end of each of his books (except for King Rat, where the death was merely figurative, rather than literal).
  • David Wong of John Dies at the End and Cracked fame tends to have work that is very cynical, heavy on the pop culture and full of Sophisticated as Hell, often explaining complex concepts with monkeys, kittens, and the aforementioned pop culture references. His Cracked articles tend to revolve around achieving happiness.
  • Charles Bukowski's work could be summed up as thoughtful insights using mundane metaphors for some of the most mundanely depressing situations done in the plainest of text. Also, lots of alcohol, sex, gambling, self-deprecation and jokes worthy of a 14 year old kid.
  • Lord Dunsany's signature style is a dreamy prose filled with Antiquated Linguistics. Think a Lighter and Softer Lovecraft, particularly early Dream Cycle Lovecraft (unsurprising since he was a major influence on the crazy Yankee), though he was quite capable of putting an edge into his stories. His later fiction loses some of this style, leading to a They Changed It, Now It Sucks reaction from some fans.
  • Timothy Zahn starts each of his Star Wars novels with a description of an Imperial Star Destroyer gliding through space, in reference to the Original Trilogy's opening shots. If he's writing in the prequel era, he substitutes the most appropriate warship of the time. He's got a lot of signature bits in his work.
    • He likes pulling an As You Know by mentioning X, then having a different character say "Oh, that's [rough explanation], right?"
    • And the phrase "...said the other" and variants in a two-person conversation.
    • Stormtroopers are extremely competent. Imperials in general are not evil, and neither are they about to switch sides. They have pride in what they do and get presented as just as human as anyone in the New Republic. There are ruthless people on both sides and the Imperials are still the villains, but it's far less black-and-white than most writers will make it.
      • This is true of Zahn's non-Star Wars novels as well. The Conqueror Trilogy is a good example of this; neither side of the conflict is bad, and both sides include the sort of multiple factions that you'd actually find in a society at war.
    • He's one of the best at complicated plotlines with several protagonists who go in separate directions, have their own plot-important actions and multiple subplots, and come together and separate again as part of the larger plot. Seriously, all of his multi-protagonist books have these.
    • Zahn really likes coolly intelligent, calculating characters, both villainous and non, and has confessed to favoring enhanced soldiers and also criminal types who have redeeming features, like Karrde, Car'das, and one of the protagonists of the Dragonback series.
  • K. A. Applegate, in the series that she's written (Animorphs, Everworld, and Remnants), always uses a choppy first-person, in which sentences are short. They're about this long. And are often fragmented. With pop culture references. And slang. And lots of expies. She likes to send her characters into facsimiles of Hell, and make it the sort of experience that horrifies, nauseates, and mentally scars even the bravest of them. (And in the case of Animorphs, they must've had to go down there about a dozen times over the course of the series.) Also, expect her to create really awesome female characters and then kill them off towards the end.
  • Frederick Forsyth is extremely well known for his obsession with correct details, intense amounts of research, and almost journalistic approach to writing.
  • Mark Z. Danielewski tends to write in either a dry, formal, academic tone or a very lyrical and sometimes almost nonsensical one (House of Leaves mixes both). He also really, really, really likes meaningful mis-spellings ("torn to pisces", "allways sixteen"), hidden coded messages, and the use of different font colors to highlight particular letters or words.
    • The typographical experimentation, with text reading vertically on the page and what have you.
  • When you read a sci-fi story, and it tells you proliferation of helicopters and telecommunication technologies allowed the humans to abandon the cities (barring, perhaps, cultural and academic centers) and return to forests and meadows they've always longed for, you can bet it's Arthur C. Clarke. (Unless it's Clifford Simak.)
    • Ditto for any short story or chapter that ends with a one-sentence Twist Ending.
  • Sandy Mitchell, of Ciaphas Cain fame, has a few old standbys. Cain's palms will be described as tingling at least ten times per novel. A remarkable amount of people are in some way preternatural, but everyone (aside from Jurgen) is insouciant. Often, something causes a susurrus. Cain frequently ends up in caves or some similar system, allowing him to remark repeatedly on how he knows his way around caves as a result of his childhood. British pop culture references are made.
    • Also, Ciaphas Cain did NOT know the horror that he would soon be facing, and if he did he would have ran screaming to the nearest shuttle off-world.
    • Similarly, if you see the words "Tenebrous" and/or "Cyclopean" used to describe a structure then you will be reading a Horus Heresy novel, and if someone "threw his red Sudenland cloak over his shoulder", enjoy your Gotrek & Felix.
  • Michael A. Stackpole, in and out of the X-Wing Series, drops many offhand references about the 'verse he's writing in by Techno Babble and mentions of unusual cultural quirks held by different species. These tend not to be elaborated on; they're there to make the 'verse bigger. His earlier novels tended to have Beige Prose. There is always one protagonist who is always, always completely and utterly confident in himself and his ego, even though he also always gets something wrong, experiences failure, and gets humiliated without revenge afterwards. Stackpole's better about this than he used to be, but there are also always a number of Red Shirt characters with almost no characterization or dialogue, and all of that is connected to that confident protagonist. There are characters in the X-Wing Series whose only lines before being killed are about Corran Horn. Also, his characters tend to talk all the same way, with dialogue more suited to exposition.
    • And he ends. Every chapter. With a Declarative Statement. Even when that means a character goes from planning/introspection to talking to themselves.
  • Homer used elaborate similes that go on for several lines, often described of feasts, and used recurring lines and phrases, like "wine-dark sea", or, after gruesome, anatomically-detailed descriptions of battlefield slayings "And the darkness swirled about his eyes."
  • E. E. Cummings uses Punctuation and
    (in a very, unique) way
    capitalization
    (disturbed he did crazed he do)
    with up so floating many bells down
  • Gertrude Stein certainly had a quite distinctive style. Gertrude Stein had a certainly quite distinctive style. Gertrude Stein had a quite certainly distinctive style. Gertrude Stein quite certainly had a distinctive style.
  • Iain M. Banks's science fiction novels, both in The Culture and the stand-alone ones, often feature a lot of snarky humor, especially at cocktail parties or something similar. There will sometimes be a Wacky Wayside Tribe scene with some other culture or species which tends to overlap with another feature, a scene of outright Gorn (i.e. the way the protagonist of ''Consider Phlebas stops cannibals from eating him). The novel may or may not end with the deaths of the cast and many other unfortunate people.
  • Matthew Reilly writes like an action film-fast paced, frantic, violent, crazy spectacles, with infodumps in-between to set up the next sequence. Almost invariably, a person's head when shot will be described as exploding like a watermelon. Most of his characters are referred to by their military callsigns. The ones that aren't are usually the main characters.
    • Incidentally, his author commentary for Seven Deadly Wonders mentions that he got sick of the callsigns. He didn't call the characters by their names, though. He called them all by nicknames ascribed to them by the Token Mini-Moe. (Pooh Bear, Big Ears, Wizard . . . One gets the impression of self-parody.)
    • Also, if anything is mentioned, it will come into play. Documents, weapons, people, buildings, the landscape itself, everything will play a part at some point. Usually by being spectacularly demolished.
  • Lemony Snicket. He often defines obscure words, writes about odd side topics, uses many of the same phrases, and hints at some sort of side story involving himself. Very odd guy.
    • 'Odd' here a word meaning 'awesome.'
  • If you are reading a book by David Weber, expect it to be very long and contain very, very explicit descriptions of technology, mathematics, and how many missiles are getting launched and annihilated. And the phrase "venting/gushing/leaking atmosphere".
    • Also, nobody simply does anything, any action performed, they have to do so bearing in mind the many intracacies of interstellar politics and warfare and espionage and shared backstory and precocious six-legged alien telepathic cat-weasel-beings that affect such weighty things as answering a phone call.
  • Daniel Pinkwater's protagonists are usually fat, dorky kids (who willingly describe themselves as such), often Jewish, with funny names and dull but harmless parents. They hate school and instead spend a lot of time having adventures with suspiciously weird friends. Other recurring themes are the state of New Jersey; Eastern mysticism; aliens, monsters and chickens.
  • Harry Turtledove has "flabble" (a word invented in the Timeline 191 series, roughly synonymous with "whine") and "spit streamed into his mouth" (for "his mouth watered") and awkward sex scenes, to name a few.
    • Expect to see Show, Don't Tell violated almost every page. Also, his characters can often be found wishing their situation was different, and then remarking that the situation remained exactly as it was regardless of how much they wished it wouldn't. Phrases like "It would be funny if only it wasn't true" also make frequent appearances. He also likes to point out a character's hypocrisy by saying "It never occurred to him/her that X," with X being something the character was complaining about that they're also guilty of.
    • Most of his works include Loads and Loads of Characters, usually spread across the landscape, most of whom never encounter each other. These works will also include large heaping helpfuls of As You Know conversations and Internal Monologues where they character reminds him/herself of how they got where they are now, since it's generally been several chapters since we last saw that character.
  • Andrey Lazarchuk loves unrepentant mindscrewery. More specifically, he has parallel universes with bizarre interdimensional mechanics, (multiple) conspiracies ancient and government aimed at manipulating said mechanics and Blue and Orange Morality. As for the narrative itself, it has plenty of internal narration to the point of stream of consciousness and lots of flashforwards and perspective shifts, presumably aimed at confusing the reader further. And everything is probably symbolic in some way, though half of it is probably the critics' fault.
  • Will Leicester appears to be obsessed with fitting as many Queen references as possible into his word, to the point of naming minor deities after the band members and, on one memorable occasion, including what is quite possibly the first offensive use of ''Stone Cold Crazy'' in history.
  • If the novel you're reading is set in Scotland, involves time travel romances, ghosts, and giant swords, has Love at First Sight and incredibly intense emotion, is PG-rated, is titled after a song or song lyric, mentions "funny spots on the ground" and "faery rings" and stars a character with the last name "MacLeod" or "de Piaget", it's a Lynn Kurland novel.
  • James Ellroy: Short, declarative sentences. All the bullshit trimmed away. Prose pared down to its bare essentials. Shakedowns. Schemes. The secret history of America. The Big Picture. Bad men and the women they loved. Violence, drug abuse, Grey and Grey Morality and occasionally redemption.
  • Lorrie Moore is fond of writing stories about lonely women or women with few people in their lives going through some life-defining crisis or another.
    • Reviewers also note her sense of humour (no matter how heartbreaking the story, there will always be details and moments of her exceptionally wry wit), true-to-life dialogue, and her ability to create something new in an over-saturated market. If you're reading a short story and it seems like it's going to be indistinguishable from the mainstream but instead it stomps your heart out, you're reading Lorrie Moore. She's often said to be a 'writer's writer.'
  • Oscar Wilde really liked writing about wealthy people and their lives (possible exception: his children's stories) but that's because, as has been acknowledged, it allowed him to realistically insert the lengthy dialogues he really loved writing. (Because only the wealthy would be idle enough to be able to spend a long time chatting with each other, see.)
  • The novels and short stories of Bret Easton Ellis always use first-person narrative, about wealthy, shallow and selfish people and often contain meticulous descriptions of incredibly violent events.
  • John Donne is fairly easily recognized if you've studied any of his poetry. He enjoys grand metaphysical imagery involving the sun and religious symbolism, and poems about great love that you couldn't possibly imagine because it's just that amazing (my love is deeper and more moving than yours, etc.).
  • In the stories of the Polish writer Marcin Wolski, the protagonist will always have sex with several women throughout, and there will be a hitman who may or may not be after the protagonist and will inevitably die before the end of the story.
  • Vladimir Nabokov's stories usually feature a Russian or Eastern-European expatriate protagonist who's an Unreliable Narrator and fond of elaborate descriptions and wordplay. Look for lots of references to butterflies, chess, other works of literature and a distinct emphasis on style over substance.
  • John Irving's novels often involve some kind of gruesome injury or accident, a teenage boy having an affair with an older woman, an elite New Hampshire prep school that is never actually called Exeter, and (more frequently than one might expect) a bear riding a bicycle.
  • A lot of Jack McDevitt's novels deal with a decades-old mystery revolving around a person who acted bizarrely out of character. The alien Mutes only attacked military targets during their war against humanity — except once when they attacked a civilian city of no strategic value which had already been evacuated (A Talent For War). A man spends his entire life searching for a hidden cache of pre-apocalypse books, only to throw them into the sea when he finds them (Eternity Road). A popular author doing research for her next book decides to have her mind wiped and restart life with a new identity (The Devil's Eye). Someone devotes their life to the search for extraterrestrial life, then abruptly quits and claims they didn't find anything despite evidence to the contrary (Infinity Beach and Echo).
  • Stories by Transformers: Timelines author team Greg Sepelak & Trent Troop generally involve Continuity Nods, Mythology Gags, and References galore, with the latter always involving at least one They Might Be Giants nod.
  • Ayn Rand unapologetically uses her works as vehicles for the transmission of her Objectivist philosophy. Her good characters represent what she feels humanity can be at its greatest moments, and most of her plots tend to revolve around the protagonists trying to accomplish extraordinary things in the face of villains who twirl their mustaches and tie women to railroad tracks.
  • Ryohgo Narita (of Baccano! and Durarara!! fame) is particularly fond of huge casts of unstable characters. All his stories also take place within the same universe.
  • Matt Stover is a real-life martial artist and will happily write intensely detailed fight scenes dozens of pages long. Other trademarks of his include erudite narration that drops into goofy terminology (like the abrupt appearance of the word "bazillion" during a serious scene in Shatterpoint), Bond One Liners and Deadpan Snarkers, badasses of every stripe, people dropping dead all over the place, and never allowing the triumph of despair even when that seems the only option left. His primary plot-making method is to grind his main character relentlessly down to their very marrow, take away everything about them that they thought was important, drive them to the brink of oblivion, then have them re-evaluate themselves, back up, stand up and show everyone what they're really made of. Typically, it's whoopass. However, while his novelisation of Revenge of the Sith follows the formula to the letter, the spirit is given a cruel twist: Anakin's fate is a life of absolutely hellish torture because when stripped of his delusions all he becomes - is himself.
  • In Robert E. Howard stories the main character is a stereotypical hero whose physical prowess is only rivaled by his wit, usually a member of some better group who mostly works alone fighting against ancient evil and/or decayed corrupted civilization turned thus. Also, as the Trope Maker of the genre, obviously there is a lot of Sword and Sorcery. Also, an overarching view that whole civilizations rise from the mud, reach peak and then corrupt and fail, as noted in the other wiki's page on this.
  • With two series, Suzanne Collins has established quite a few - young protagonists who have already been through the wringer, younger siblings they would do anything to protect, war as hell, deadpan snarkers, world-weary mentors who use sarcasm and put-downs in their training, authority figures who later turn out to be evil, a balance of good and evil to both sides, beloved characters dying suddenly, and villains somehow connected to white. She also likes to end chapters (and sometimes books) with a Wham Line.
  • Paul Stewart loves to make up words, for one thing. He also has a talent for names, all of his works taking place on the far side of Aerith and Bob. Probably the most immediately noticeable quirk, though, is that he never ever says "around." It's always "Twig spun round" or "they came round in the end."
  • Virginia Woolf will jump in and out of the consciousness of various characters going about their ordinary everyday lives.
    • Incredibly long but grammatically correct sentences are another feature of her work, although you're unlikely to notice that you've yet to come to a period on first read; Woolf was very fond of the semicolon as a way to join a paragraph's worth of thoughts and observations into one sentence, which, in the interest of not starting a war over the proper use of the semicolon, let it simply be said that Woolf was very familiar with the intricacies of structure and frequently nested clauses within clauses, and while not writing in true stream of consciousness style, her flowing style allowed her to capture the consciousness of her characters and immerse her readers in such without resorting to line breaks or other obvious quirks; the long sentences, then, are not so much an error as a manifestation of style.
  • J.D. Salinger writes about teenagers or young adults, most of whom are either geniuses or at least very intellectually gifted. Also expect gratuitous swearing and conversations that never reveal what anyone is actually thinking.
  • Flannery O'Connor's work is always set in the South and usually culminates in an epiphany of some kind, often religious in nature. Many characters also suffer from some kind of disability or disfigurement.
  • Raymond Carver writes in short, simple sentences, and characters will probably spend most of the story talking.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald's stories are always about upper-class people, usually alcoholics, who self-destruct spectacularly in beautiful and occasionally flowery prose.
  • Ernest Hemingway's stories often feature hunting, fishing, war or bull-fighting. He writes in famously short, direct sentences using simple language so that the style does not distract from the content. Themes of masculinity are prevalent.
  • Brandon Sanderson is best known for his intricate, self consistent magic systems. His works also tend to contain lots of political intrigue that ultimately results in chaos, Well Intentioned Extremists, large quantities of snark, and characters becoming gods.
    • He is into Powergaming. Said magic systems will almost always be used in unusual, game breaking ways, and any seemingly 'useless' abilities will always be proved extremely effective and plot important before the end.
  • Damon Runyon uses anonymous First Person Peripheral Narrators with Present Tense Narrative and a mixture of period slang and Delusions of Eloquence:
    If I have all the tears that are shed on Broadway by guys in love, I will have enough salt water to start an opposition ocean to the Atlantic and Pacific, with enough left over to run the Great Salt Lake out of business. But I wish to say I never shed any of these tears personally, because I am never in love, and furthermore, barring a bad break, I never expect to be in love, for the way I look at it love is strictly the old phedinkus, and I tell the little guy as much.
  • If you've just read several pages of dialogue without a single "said Charname" to help you keep it straight, you may well be reading Roger Zelazny. Also, a superhuman or group thereof among normals is a staggeringly common theme.
  • We're sure almost everyone knows by this time that almost all Seuss books are written in rhyme.
  • Robert B. Parker seems completely oblivious to the fact that dialogue can be attributed in ways other than "X said."
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