Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Conveying emotion while avoiding cliché: Rachel Thompson on style

This edition of Written Words turns to Rachel Thompson, author of A Walk in the Snark, The Mancode: Exposed and most recently, Broken Pieces. She has graciously agreed to answer my pesky questions about writing style.

How would you describe your own writing style?

I've always been fascinated by writers who can express themselves with the least amount of words, yet still lyrically. That's why I'm such a fan of Hemingway. I tend to write in shorter sentences, with as few words as possible. 

You made a major shift between your first two books, The Mancode Exposed and A Walk in the Snark, and your third, Broken Pieces, in terms of subject matter and tone. Do you also think you wrote differently? Do you think your use of language changed?

The topics of male/female relationships are still there, and I'm still nonfiction, but yes, the tone is radically different. After writing the first two humor books, I found myself returning again and again to the childhood sexual abuse I experienced as a child and had never spoken or written about. It just seemed like it was time.

Are there any authors whose style you admire? Do you try to emulate them?

I hated Hemingway when I was younger, but very much appreciate his style now. I admire Hanuki Murakami immensely. John Irving and Pat Conroy also, for their ability to tell wonderful stories with rich characters. I'm enjoying more poetry now, especially by Dylan Thomas and Pablo Neruda. I enjoy David Sedaris very much. I'm also a huge advocate for women, and read as many female writers as I can. Those who influence me are Virginia Wolff, Lorrie Moore, Anne Rice's earlier works and Margaret Atwood — love her work. And indie authors like Christine Nolfi, Steena Holmes, and Terri Guiliano Long are extremely talented. 

Are there authors whose writing style you dislike?

It's interesting — I've attempted to read House of Leaves (by Mark Z. Danielewski) several times and just can't get through it. I'm very process-oriented and linear. That book is crazy. It's on my To Do list, though. :) 

How important is your writing style to you? Are you happy with your style, or are there aspects of it you try to change during rewriting or editing?

I do like my style. I find I work best with a loose structural outline (for example, “trust” or “love” as topics) and then I just let my mind go. It seems to work well with poetic structure in particular. I'm playing with sonnets right now. I tend to write in past tense more than I'd like. 

How can readers identify your writing style? Are there particular words or kinds of words that you tend to favour? Sentence structures? Or is it more in the story, the pacing or the characters?

As a nonfiction writer, I'm fascinated endlessly by the psychology of relationships, so I tend to use words that convey emotion, while avoiding clichés (e.g. heart, soul), which can be difficult! Avoiding cliché is a huge deal for me. With regard to pacing, in this past book I was struggling with the structure and how it lent itself to pacing. My brilliant editor, Jessica Swift, suggested I don't get mired in the structure while I was writing — rather, allow the pieces to go where they led me. This ended up working quite well and it's how we ended up structuring the book.

Meaning, it's not: essay, poem, prose; essay, poem, prose. It's whatever felt right for each section.

Do you think your audience responds to your writing style, consciously or unconsciously?

I do. We're taught to be chronological thinkers, but emotions don't conveniently fit into that neat little timeline. So with this book, I present it in pieces (as the title implies) so the reader will feel the same discomfort I did as I lived them. Even a 1-star review that complains about disliking the “disjointedness” of the book's structure is a win for me since that’s exactly what I wanted.

How important do you think writing style is to an author's commercial success?

I wish I had an easy answer. I had no idea people would respond to this book the way they have. Sometimes I read a NYTimes bestseller and think, “really?” So I suppose my answer is that yes, style does contribute, but we as authors also have to connect with readers at an emotional level for the work to resonate.

Where do you see yourself going creatively next? Tell us about your work in progress. What can your readers expect from RachelintheOC?

My social media book for authors (Let's Deconstruct! is the tentative title) is with my editor. We should be done with that process by October and I hope to release in November. I've started writing the next in the Broken series, titled Broken Places. I was hoping to release by December but we shall see — I'm thinking more spring of next year at this point. I don't want to rush it. And I recently signed with Booktrope to create the print version of Broken Pieces. That should be out in October or November also. 

Thanks, Rachel in the oh-see!

Thank you!

Rachel Thompson (aka RachelintheOC) is a bestselling author and social media/author marketing consultant. She is a founding member of the BestSelling Reads association of writers of new fiction.
Her three books, A Walk In The Snark, The Mancode: Exposed and Broken Pieces are all #1 Kindle bestsellers and garner five-star reviews from fans and professional reviewers alike.
When not writing, she helps authors and other professionals with branding and social media through her company, BadRedhead Media. Her articles appear regularly in the San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…),,, and
While she did live in “the OC” — Orange County, California, Rachel and family moved to Northern California in 2012 to be closer to family and friends — but really, because her family was tired of her burnt food and Rachel’s mom is a great cook.
She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut.

Find Rachel Thompson online: 

Email RachelintheOC(at)
Consulting company: BadRedhead Media 


Rachel: @RachelintheOC
Business: @BadRedheadMedia




  1. Very interesting interview. There seems to be a format error after the 1st question: the answer is continued under the second questions, which has no answer.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out. Some content seems to have been excised from the original text file. I'll fix that.

  2. Thanks for hosting me today, Scott. I love how supportive you are of other authors. thank you for your big heart!

    1. Very happy to have you here, Rachel. Thanks for answering my questions so openly and completely.

  3. Rachel is not only a talented writer but a strong advocate for truth and justice. I'm a big fan.