Paulo Coelho’s Writing Style

For people who haven’t read any of Paulo Coelho’s books, they would think that for him to be listed as one of the most sought-after bestselling author with millions of fans, he might be using sophistication both in sentence structures and/or in plots. But Coelho’s fans and avid readers knew better. Despite the variations on how the stories are narrated, his books were nonetheless, of the same style— straightforwardness.

Simplicity as a style would seem very unusual in a creative literature like fiction, since most writers hook readers by using sophisticated lines and sentence structure. It has also been common to readers to get impressed by fashionable delivery even if they sometimes have to endure the burden of having a dictionary beside them. So how did simplicity and briefness ever become an effective technique especially considering the tight competition in the market?

paperclips magazine feature coelho

Let’s learn how Paulo Coelho defines fashion using the slightly opposite meaning of the word itself.

Simple and Straightforward

Coelho’s literary works are succinct; very simple and precise. Unlike any other novelists, his works are not abundant to flowery words and puzzling twists and details. He’s not fond of using much vocabulary, although not really devoid of it. Even the way he introduces his characters and their actions are not overly descriptive. He brings his writings straight right through the door than have them run through the mazes. Oh, that’s figurative. Well, he also uses figures of speech sometimes, but that which are understandable even to youngsters.

There were twists in his stories, but he doesn’t take much of an effort of laying out his plots in a very complicated and mind-boggling sequencing like J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.

While people are trying to work so much on the style, Coelho insists that what matters most in a good story is not the fashionable words used but the person. Coelho observed that the use of complex line structures and flowery words has become a tradition which started with a single worry about readers getting bored on what they are reading. In the same manner, people has become used to putting too much details to describe an event, worrying the readers may not get what is being said about. But Coelho advises potential writers to trust on the readers’ judgement and imagination.

In his interview with Tim Ferris, Coelho admitted to have done planning on all of his books, but added that the plot eventually changes along the process. Organic writing— writing spontaneously along the flow— mostly works best. He delivers the story in a way like someone is retelling a story around a camp fire, where most of it wasn’t really thought of beforehand. He just had the backstory, then the rest would slide right through the flow.

His straightforwardness is conspicuous in the entirety of his writing techniques, from character build up and simplicity of sentence structure to honest observation. Yes, even relaying observations are frankly delivered. No courtesy of artfully encyclopedic detailing. Just pulling the trigger, with the gun barrel at point blank. Contrary to what others might think that such blunt technique is harsh and is devoid of emotions, it quite works surprisingly with Coelho, as it rather adds up to the intensity of the message he tries to convey.

Don’t get the wrong notion here. For Coelho, simplicity is something that does not take unnecessary complexities in the twists and details, but that does not also compromise the quality of delivery.

Therefore, Coelho shows that simplicity also comes with quality— that every paragraph can still be well-written, considering that the readers will always be brought directly to the point the author is trying to make. And that despite his frankness, his writings do not lack fascinating style. In fact, all his books are considered poetic and are never boring.

Although his being poetic has been influenced by his first career as a lyricist, Coelho rather defines poetic as something that touches the inner soul. Oh, remember, no flowery words. Even simple words, with the right tempo and rhythm, can have the sufficient power to attract an idle soul.

Most writers grown their writing style based on the inspiration they get. Coelho, in most of his books, even those which are not autobiographical, is taking his own experience as an inspiration. Being poetic due to his job as a lyricist is one example of it.

Although Coelho didn’t shun or degrade researching, since he’s also doing some and believes it is important, but he summarizes them to make sure that scientific or historical explanation won’t make a mess to the entirety of his story. In fact, he also has something for fiction writers, which he didn’t explained much. Well, he never likes explaining too much. He advises, “If you overload your book with a lot of research, you are going to be very boring to yourself and to your reader. Books are not there to show how intelligent you are. Books are there to show your soul.”

As a summary, Coelho’s writing style is an application of the following principles, as written by himself in his blog (the original article is lengthy. It was based on Coelho’s interview with Tim Ferris. But the rest were about other matters of his own literary point of view, so the three written below were picked up for they fit to Coelho’s writing style):

On Simplicity. “What counts in a good story is the person inside. Keep it simple.”

On Trust. “Trust your reader. Don’t try to describe things. Give a hint and they will fulfill this hint with their own imagination.

On Expertise. “You cannot take something out of nothing. When you write a book, you use your experience.”