I am writing a short story that describes a dream that I had as a child. I wrote a first rough draft and had my girlfriend read it to give me some feedback. One thing she criticized is my writing style, saying that I type too formally, which she said felt out of place for the events in the story. The story is in the first person with the dream being described as if I were telling it to people sitting by a campfire.

I know that there is no right or wrong way, but just for the sake of being engaging, should I change how I write or continue the way I feel comfortable?

  • 1
    Welcome to Writing. SE! Did you only show it to your girlfriend? Having a larger base of beta readers can help to see whether this is just something she doesn't like or something that really should change, depending on whether your beta readers are close to your target audience. Which reminds me: what is your intended target audience? If you habe a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Habe fun!
    – Secespitus
    Jun 10, 2019 at 21:38
  • I don't really have a target audience so to speak. I used to write a lot when I was younger and it just kind of dropped off as I got older. This is the first story I am attempting to write in probably 15 years so I figured I would submit to to r/nosleep or some similar subreddit eventually. Jun 10, 2019 at 21:43
  • I had a discussion about this years ago with my significant other, and at the time she explained that I was too reserved (which is true because in my education, men should not express their emotions), so maybe she expects you to express more feelings than what you write? Do you think your story would gain something in being less formal?
    – kikirex
    Jun 12, 2019 at 10:57

2 Answers 2


Ideally, the way you write is the right way for the story.

It sounds like you have one basic style and it may be a nonfiction/essay style. That's the style most people develop first, because not only are we taught it in school, we practice it over and over. If this is the voice you used in your short story, then it would definitely be out of place.

Use this as an opportunity to practice other styles.

Write the story in another voice and see how that comes out. You might even try it a few other ways, if it's short enough (or do an excerpt).

With time, you'll develop a repertoire of styles and you can pick and choose next time you get an idea. Or try a couple of them out.

I agree with Secespitus that you should find additional readers. But if they say the same thing, the answer is clear.

It's not about changing the way you write. There's nothing wrong with a formal style. It's about broadening your abilities. Just like there's nothing wrong with being good at dressing formally, which is in fact an important skill to have. But it would completely out of place to dress in a suit at a beach party.


It's not about changing your writing style, it's about refining it. You probably couldn't "change" your writing style anyway. It's a product of hundreds of things that make the way you write unique to you; tricks you learned from your fifth grade English teacher, books that inspire you, friends you base your characters on, aversions to certain topics, good habits, bad habits, your personality in general, etc.

Don't think about it as changing the way you write. Think of it as stepping outside your comfort zone. That's a good thing, it's how we learn. Try some new things. If they don't work out, try something else. If you find some new techniques that work for you, then incorporate them into your writing style.

As for your making your writing feel less formal, it may be as simple as simplifying a few complex sentences or rethinking words that are out of place in your setting.

And, as @Cyn mentioned, voice is very important. Remember that your character is not you and should have a unique voice of their own. Even if you are your own POV character, the "you" writing the story is not the same as the "you" in your story. Picture your character sitting by the crackling campfire, trying to entertain his friends with whatever crazy tale he's spinning. How does he tell his story?

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