Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I’ve been re-reading some of my favorite writers books recently looking at their writing styles. It’s really strange now after trolling for critiques of my books and stories and reading about what a book or story “must” have. So I thought I’d check how some of my favorite authors stacked up in the “must” haves.
Isaac Asimov: Created fantastic worlds that were mostly relayed by conversations among the characters. What did these characters look like, I haven’t a clue and neither did he. What was the setting they were in look like, I haven’t a clue and neither did he. How would the characters re-act in a totally different situation than the one they were in, for most of them I don’t know he didn’t delve into they’re motivations beyond the current struggle they were in.
Why is he one of my favorites: Having the blank slate for what the characters looked like, the setting they were in and their motivations beyond the current struggle, my mind could imagine all these things as I was reading making the stories much more personal for me.
What I’ve learned from him: I try to keep the descriptions of my characters and small settings to a minimum. Let the reader paint their own picture of them. Most of my characters are very unique though so their views on how they would react to new situation show through, if they know what they would do themselves.
Arthur C. Clarke: Painted vivid images of the Solar System, exposing all its wonder. And he had some people doing something, sometimes. Point of View, the main character would look at something until something came up that he could see, then the omnipresent voice would explain it and switch back to the main character.
Why is he one of my favorites: His passion and vision of the future was wonderful.
What I’ve learned from him: Even though vivid imagery is frowned upon by the publishing world, I feel they are wrong. Bad vivid imagery should be frowned on, good vivid imagery can fill the reader with wonder that makes the story that much grander.
That I suck at writing the omnipresent voice so I don’t use it.
Robert A. Hienlein: Mostly had characters who were outsiders to society and culture and through their eyes he explored his worlds (and ours) society. His knowledge of how society works allowed him to come up with Reagan’s Star Wars program which he knew wouldn’t work, he knew the Soviet Scientist would know it wouldn’t work, but he knew it was plausible enough that Soviet Leaders wouldn’t listen to their own scientists.
Why he is one of my favorites: He could paint a mental view of an alien world, which happened to the one we lived in. His outside view allowed us to see the absurd and stupid all around us, and in doing so taught us a little about ourselves.
What I learned from him: The hell with relatable characters. My characters probably aren’t like the reader, if they are I feel sorry for the reader. Most of my characters would barely be considered functional because of their mental problems. Yet they offer a wonderful view of the world. And hopefully, the reader considers them to be like a friend, someone you can feel sorry for even if the same thing wouldn’t happen to you.
These are three of my favorite authors and according to most editors they wrote the exact opposite of what editors what. So I will do the same.
I’ll seek out magazines that expressly say they don’t want imagery and send them some fantastic technological imagery behind a thinly veiled story. And laugh when they send me the check.
I’ll avoid describing what my characters look like, and I’ll have them so strange that to them the normal looks alien.
As a result my stories and books probably won’t be considered normal, but that’s ok I don’t do normal very well.
Darrell B. Nelson