Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday: On Reading

Some writers are so brilliant, I just want to imitate them.

If you don't know it yet, I'll tell you right now. Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favourite authors in the world. She's so imaginative, and she just loves to play with words. When you read one of her books, you can generally tell it's written by her just by the way she uses words. No one else employs word usage quite the same way she does.

When I find a book by her that I have not yet read, I feel amazingly blessed that I have a chance to savour her style again. Whenever she writes, her stories are from a perspective that is entirely fresh and new. Here's an example from one of her books that I was reading a book by her the other day. This book is called "The Eight Days of Luke," and I have to say she shocked me, as she always does, with a versatility of her brain.

In this story, she introduces the main character, David, in once sentence: "Unlike most boys, David dreaded the holidays." That about sums him up. David is unlike most boys, he hates the holidays. Why? Already, you're curious and drawn into the story. Later, she describes how David has decided that smell is more important to the human race than anyone believes, and when he steps into the house it smells "thick and dampish, of polish and old cabbage." At the smell, she writes that David's heart, obstinately cheerful, goes down "about seven notches with a rush." You can just visualize that feeling. It's amazing.

I love to study the way she writes. Look at this sentence: "He got up and stalked upstairs, feeling for the wall as if he thought it might escape him unless he kept in touch with it. His bedroom door did escape him." Isn't that imagery vivid? Look here: "He picked up the skull and knocked an onion ring out of its eye socket." Brilliant! I'd never have thought of that line! Last, one of my favourite lines ever: "Christopher discovered that you dealt with obnoxious masters and most older boys the way you dealt with governesses: you quite politely told them the truth in the way they wanted to hear it, so that they thought they had won and left you in peace."

So, after reading many, many, many of her books,  I've discovered that I'm endeavouring to come up with new, fresh ways to say things that will make people think, "Wow, that totally hit the picture!"

Which authors do you read over and over again, just so you can study how they DO it?


  1. I love Stephen King. Yes, he's a bit graphic, but he has a way with words, and with getting you inside each of the characters. I love that!

    I also like Ken Follet. He writes a lot of historical fiction. He makes the charachters so alive and so real.

    I guess I like reading authors who give me great characters, and can make me like the characters!

  2. Yes, that's how I feel with Diana Wynne Jones. She has such a grasp of language that is amazing. I love it.

  3. Stephen King is always been a favorite. I also read Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle a million's so fresh and terrifically written! And funny, is something very rare in books these days.
    The one author I keep studying these days would be Lauren Oliver

  4. Howl's Moving Castle is a RIOT! That's one of her best, I think.

    What does Lauren Oliver write? I must look her up.

  5. I'm with you Cat. I'm completely in awe of Diana Wynne Jones. Absolutely an amazing author.
    I love Elizabeth Marie Pope. She only wrote two books (which is a shame!) but those two are fantastic. If I could handle historical fiction as well as she did in 'The Sherwood Ring' I would feel accomplished...sigh. :-)

  6. Yes, she has an amazing way with words, too, Amy. I read her stuff, and think, "Well, I must LEARN from her." :-)

  7. Nancy Werlin, MT Anderson, A.S. King for YA, Lewis Carroll for kids lit, and the greats like Nabokov and Chekhov.

  8. Greg Isles, Vince Flynn...I have to add Stephanie Meyers and the authors of House of Night.

  9. Okay, don't start throwing stones or anything but I don't think I ever like every book written by an author. I've read books I've loved and then tried to get my hands on everything that author ever wrote and I'll find a book in there that just doesn't do it for me. I hate when this happens. I would love to find an author that I knew would blow me away every time. I'm still looking.

  10. I like Lewis Carol too, Catherine. He also has fun with words.

    I've yet to read the Twilight series, Shelly, so I can't say how her style compares, but I shall have to look up the other two authors you mentioned.

    Kelly, it took me until Diana Wynne Jones to find an author who does blow me away every time. I don't think there's one book of hers that I've read that I haven't NOT liked. So far, I'm hoping that will be the case! :D

  11. Diana Wynne Jones is a wonderful author, Cat, she's my faaaaavorite. :)I love every single one of her books.

    You're right about her amazing way with words, like when she's talking about that kid riding the bike for the first time, and she says, "He turned around in a curvaceous swoop." I loved that bit. :)


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