One of the most common pieces of advice given to aspiring authors is to be voracious readers. I don’t know if I was a writer or reader first because I remember always doing both (well, as far back as my memory goes at least. Clearly I couldn’t write as three-year-old or younger). But I do remember writing stories in first grade and loving to read.
Many of my childhood memories involve my parents, my sister and myself all going to the book store together. Each of us would hurry off to our own preferred corner of the store and come back with our arms full. Over the years, I collected stories from authors across the map and from all realms of fiction. But, there are a few writers to whom I return again and again.
Are there authors you go back to over and over? Maybe the prose is just so nice or the dialogue cracks you up? I rarely watch a movie more than once. But a good book? If the author isn’t adding to their bookshelf, then every now and again I am inclined to go back and relive a world I love.
As a middle schooler, my favorite author was Brian Jacques. I loved living the adventures of the mice and other woodland creatures of Redwall. I think Redwall books are the reason that the otter is my favorite animal still today! I read those books so many times that the covers began to tear and deteriorate.
Right now, I’m in the middle of reading a new book by one of my favorite writers, Carlos Ruiz Zafon. His series about Daniel and the Hall of Forgotten Books is one of my favorite finds ever. I remember picking up The Shadow of the Wind in a book store simply because the title caught my eye. I am reading it in translation, of course, since I’m not fluent in Spanish. But, the translator does such a nice job. Plus, Zafon’s characters are memorable, as is the dialogue and prose. Each time I delve into this world, it’s like taking a drink of cool water on a hot day. That sounds cliche’, but Zafon’s stories are anything but! I always get a kick out of reconnecting with Daniel and Fermin and reading Fermin’s ridiculous advice and grandiose statements. Zafon created something truly special when he built that world.
When I read works written by writers like Zafon, I remember why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. I remember my love of playful language and interesting worlds and adventures and how I wanted to be at the helm of a story.
While I aspire to write as beautifully as Zafon, I do know that I have limitations. I’ve never been good at funny. This is not something I imagine that I will master. I’m not bold enough with my characters or the things that come out of their mouths. My personal sense of humor is pretty dry, so I’m not naturally ridiculous, unfortunately. I mean, I make myself laugh. I’ve even been known to make myself laugh so much that no sound comes out and I cry. But, making other people laugh like isn’t quite as easy. I have a unique and rather dry sense of humor.
This is not something to lament as a lacking in myself. Instead, it is something I can practice, if I so choose. Or I can accept who I am as a person and a writer and focus on the things that connect me most to Zafon which are the beautiful words that come out on the pages.
As you become more familiar with a writer and his/her style, you are better able to understand the decisions they made with their stories. You are learning from people who did things that worked for you and you’re supposed to be writing for YOU anyway. And that’s what this whole game is all about. Learn, practice and get better! And, most importantly learn to love what you are creating.