Shōyō holds that there are "natural laws" that govern the novel; but there are, he claims, a set of "intuitive" laws:
It is certainly not my intention to expatiate the true rules, which are intuitive. I ask all you scholars, therefore, not to pounce arbitrarily upon the word "rules" and chide me for my ignorance! The points I make in the following chapters are for the most part my own personal opinions; it may be that many of them are wrong. (50)
On the subject of style, Shōyō likens the novelist to a cook who, with an endless variety of ingredients and possible combinations at his disposal, is concerned only with the final result. Any number of procedures, Shōyō points out, might yield satisfactory results (49). These ingredients are the "three styles of Japan," namely, wabun 和文 (Heian classical), kōgo 口語(colloquial), and wakonkonkōbun 和漢混交文 ("a mixture of the two") (51). The end result is only satisfactory when the styles are appropriately combined in accordance with their subject. He likens this process to mixing water (kōgo) with wine (wabun) (68). The style, he goes on, should be appropriate to affect, and, since the shades of human emotion are infinite, the number of styles at the writer's disposable are also infinite. Therefore, writers should strive to be as stylistically versatile as possible.
Humor, he notes, is attained by using the elegant wabun to describe something inelegant. "Skilful writing adapts the style to the content," he writes, "whether simple or complex, robust or gentle, richly beautiful or unsophisticated" (43). Shikitei Samba (1776-1822), he notes, employed the humorous technique to great success. But as a rule of thumb, the writer should employ a brusque prose for rougher subjects, and a refined style for more delicate ones (57). Dialogue, too, should be appropriate to character, and the mixed style should be used for narrative passages, so that it may lend a literariness to the work (58). Of the two genres yomihon and kusazōshi, the former utilizes this mixed-classical-and-colloquial style to a greater degree of success (60). By contrast, the kusazōshi, which were originally intended to serve as "amusements for women and children," employ too much of the colloquial, making it more vulgar than the yomihon (69). Finally, colloquial-dominated prose should be reserved only for contemporary subjects (72). And the two dangers, he warns, are in sounding either too classical or too colloquial. He recommends a hybrid style such as that successfully employed by Bakin in his Hakkenden and Bishōnenroku, which uses the classical language for over 60 percent of the narrative passages, and for half of the dialogue. Yet, though Bakin is exemplary, Shōyō warns not to imitate him. If you want to write like Bakin, Shōyō advises, "go back to Bakin's starting point" and "savour great works like Genji monogatari and Heike monogatari and Taiheiki, and then strike out on a new path of their own" (68).
[click here for Part 6]