I'm re-reading "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov right now, and I must say, the author is very consistent in never allowing himself merely to narrate: each paragraph, if not each sentence, is loaded with metaphors, allusions, elegant turns of phrase, humorous word-play, twisted and sprained shades of meaning, and so forth.

A very different author, William Faulkner, uses different words, different imagery, different everything, except the method: each paragraph, if not each sentence, is unmistakably Faulkner's, and all of them are packed with Faulkner's signature twists and turns.

There are a few others, including Joyce, whom I dislike intensely, but he, too, is one of ...

Well, that, actually, is the question. Is there a term for authors of that sort? I mean, "stylists" is what comes to mind first, except that in today's cultural climate, the word would sooner invoke images of the bright lights in a Manhattan beauty salon than those of a patient storyteller burning the midnight oil.

Clearly there is, or was, an entire movement, before and after World War II. There was a whole category of these people. Similar to, say, the Lake Poets.

Is there an official term?

  • [An] Artist with words has been used to describe someone who's more than just a competent communicator. The term is perhaps most often applied to poets, though. Nov 24, 2015 at 14:10
  • Exactly. But poetry has yet to become a billion-dollar industry, which prose fiction already is, or at least was until very recently. There's gotta be a name for those guys.
    – Ricky
    Nov 24, 2015 at 14:14
  • 2
    But ... I'm not clear if you are referring to a specific cohort of writers, or whether the word you are seeking will be applicable as well to, say, Jane Austen and Robert Louis Stevenson.
    – Dan
    Nov 24, 2015 at 14:36
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    The category you describe is not well defined. You are essentially classing authors that pay attention to words and use them in more than one way, such as introducing multiple meanings or levels of meaning. The question is too broad/vague or unclear, IMO.
    – Drew
    Nov 24, 2015 at 15:52
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    Good writers have a "voice" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writer%27s_voice and here goinswriter.com/writing-voice So I suppose you could say Nabokov has a unique voice.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 24, 2015 at 20:31

2 Answers 2


To the best of my knowledge (and I teach English), there is not one specific term that defines or categorizes this quality you are describing. It is certainly a difference in writing style---some writers are much more verbose and will never say in six or seven words what can be stretched into fifteen. Faulkner tended to prefer long, winding passages that ramble on and on with lots of dependent clauses. Hemingway was a writer who preferred clean, concise writing that let him say what he wanted to say as directly as possible. He also used metaphor and allusion, but his style was to break the story down into sentences of a smaller, more reader-friendly variety. Reading Hemingway is like running down a sidewalk. Reading Faulkner is frequently like running in waist-deep water. To answer your question, though, this is really more of a difference in style than anything else. Faulkner and Hemingway were actually what you would consider contemporaries, and didn't really belong to different "schools" of writing, but approached composition with very different stylistic preferences.

  • According to Wikipedia, Hemingway actually is a member of a category: The Lost Generation, which also includes Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound. Granted, the category is not based on their writing foibles. However, Modernism (according to the same article) includes T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, and Fernando Pessoa; while Realism unites such authors as Balzac, Stendhal (why, I wonder), Tolstoy, and Frank Norris. So maybe my "stylists" (those who, according to John Updike, "use language ecstatically" (or something to that effect), circa 1930-1965, do deserve a category of their own? ...
    – Ricky
    Nov 24, 2015 at 17:04
  • Link for the Wiki article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Ricky
    Nov 24, 2015 at 17:04

I can go with Urban Dictionary on this one:


One with the ability to effortlessly string together words, no matter their actual meaning, in an instance and in such a way it brings a smile to the faces of those listening, sometimes often laughter or tears of admiration for having heard someone with such an amazing skill....

  • Thank you. But that's a very general term. Perhaps I should include the word "movement" in my question.
    – Ricky
    Nov 24, 2015 at 14:29

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