National Writing Day 2023

5 min read

For national writing day, we celebrate our favourite authors' writing styles

National Writing Day - celebrate with vintage classics of literature

Classic authors are often defined as such due to the longevity of their literary works. Works that became famous due to their complex themes, social critiques and unique literary styles. Some of the greatest writers of all time were those who threw out the rule book and experimented with genre and writing style.

In this blog, we’ve chosen to explore the writing styles of some of our favourite authors, from Chaucer’s narrative technique and Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter to the social commentaries of Dickens and Austen and the minimalist and Modernist styles of Hemingway and Woolf.

14th Century

Geoffrey Chaucer

The ‘Chaucerian’ writing style is defined not just by the use of specific techniques but the related values and meanings. Many literary techniques appear in The Canterbury Tales, but Chaucer’s style is particularly defined by his use of characterisation. Using both direct and indirect techniques, he brings his characters to life on the page and creates meaning through them. While these techniques are essential to understanding Chaucer’s style, he is most often remembered for his use of the Middle English form and employment of iambic pentamer which make his tales difficult to understand.

    • The Canterbury Tales

      The Canterbury Tales

      The Canterbury Tales is written using a framed narrative. The volume begins with a prologue and ends with an epilogue. Framed by these parts are twenty-four tales, each told by a one of the central characters introduced in the prologue. The work’s poetic power, striking characterization, satirical tone and inclusion of important morals and themes set it apart as one of the most famous literary works of all time.

      Shop for vintage Chaucer-related books at Country House Library →

16th-17th Centuries

William Shakespeare

Shakespeare, like Chaucer, used iambic pentameter in his writing, though the rhythms were employed differently by both authors. While there are similarities between Shakespeare and Chaucer’s work, there are also clear differences. Shakespeare replaced Chaucer’s satirical realism with drama, action, romance and imagination. He explores both the tragic and the comical and sets his plays against the backdrop of Elizabethan England.

    • The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Undated)

      The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Undated)

      Though written in Modern English, Shakespeare’s language can be tricky to understand. His use of poetic techniques, such as similes and metaphors, have often puzzled readers and audiences. He hides meanings between the lines, adding depth and intrigue to his character’s speeches. His ability to experiment with rhymes and rhythms without stepping too far out of the box continues to baffle and fascinate critics, readers and audiences today.

      Shop for vintage Shakespeare books at Country House Library →

18th - 19th Centuries

Jane Austen

Austen, like Shakespeare and Chaucer, created many of her own words which still exist in dictionaries today. Her works demonstrate an excellent command of language and an ability to wield irony, realism and satire to great effect. At first glance, her novels seem romantic but are in fact intelligent social commentaries that reveal Austen’s critique of the society she was living in. Her use of free indirect discourse, her limited descriptions and her focus on speech allow her characters to step into the limelight so that their voices become almost inseparable from the narrator’s.

Charles Dickens

Dickens, too, was renowned for his use of satire. Like Austen, he used satire and idioms in his social commentaries. Though often serious and moralistic, many of his novels have witty and humorous moments that make his style so memorable. Dicken’s wish to make his characters memorable while exposing the issues present in his society, has stood him apart from other writers for generations.

20th Century

Ernest Hemingway

It is common knowledge that Hemingway’s literary style helped to revolutionise the English language. Like all authors, he had his critics, but he was generally admired for his minimalist style. His ability to write succinct prose relied upon the ‘iceberg technique’ which involved omitting detail in order to make his readers find all meaning beneath the surface. Hemingway’s literary control is masterful and certainly secured his lasting fame.

Virginia Woolf

Woolf is often considered one of the most innovative writers of the 20th Century. She pioneered the stream of consciousness technique, a flowing narrative form which often makes use of unreliable narrators, interior monologues and shifting perspectives. The form was also developed by James Joyce and William Faulkner. Woolf’s exploration of the human mind, her feminist focus and her sharp intelligence work together to create her unique literary style.

The Power of Words

Literature is an ever evolving force. New authors emerge and the classic writers remain as reminders of our literary past. Yet once upon a time, they were the ones breaking boundaries and changing the face of the literary world. To experiment with language, push the boundaries and explore the depths of the human mind takes great courage but because of their fearlessness, the writing styles of these great authors live on.



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