Style & structure

By Elizabeth Cali and Howard Rambsy II

Vernacular, dialogue, diction, detail, syntax, rhythm, punctuation. Style has a direct impact on how it feels to read and hear the sentences on the page. From distinct and recurring expressive patterns to the formation of certain moods and tones such as humor, reflection, and mystery, writers’ stylistic choices transport readers anywhere from a market buzz, to a kitchen table conversation, to the high stakes of a late night heist.

More, writers’ stylistic choices and inclinations forge important bonds between black books and folk, musical, historical, and spiritual traditions across the diaspora. Black books offer entry into the vast stylistic modes of African American expression and their roots across time and geography.

Story structures are often intertwined with a novel’s genre. The detective or mystery novel might have shorter chapters, creating a fast paced page-turner. An epistolary novel written in the form of letters – none more well known than The Color Purple – coheres around the organization of the shared correspondence. A cross-generational novel may very well move forward and backward in time, defying chronological progression as it weaves together stories of kinship across generations. Similarly, nonlinear novel structures appear frequently in black literary works, disrupting conventional notions of time and place.