Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Go-To Authors...

In my spare time (ha! what's that?), I love to read. Big surprise, huh? I have a specific bank of "go-to" authors I re-visit time and time again. I will read ANYTHING they write, because I adore their writing so much and I learn from studying their craft. Some of these authors include: Elizabeth Berg, Rosamunde Pilcher, Elin Hilderbrand, Eva Rice, Raffaella Barker, and Anne Tyler.

Most of these women are classified as "women's fiction," and a couple of them (Berg, Tyler) could surely qualify as literary fiction.

When I read their work, I know something about myself - that I'm not talented enough or brilliant enough to be as good as they are. I'm just not. But that's why I adore them so much. They challenge me to be a better writer. To raise my standards. To aim for a higher target. Every single time I read one of their books, I think to myself, "Man, I wish I could write like that." And after I get over the momentary depression that I'm not, I pick myself up, poise my fingers at the keyboard, and at least give it my best shot.

Currently, I'm reading Anne Tyler's new book, Noah's Compass. I'll be frank -- the plot is rather thin (as most are, in literary fiction - because it's all about characterization for them): The main character, newly-fired from his job, gets hit over the head in his own home, and wakes up in the hospital. That's about it. He spends many chapters trying to remember the incident (which he's blocked out). And along the way, we meet his ex and his daughters and an old teacher friend. No huge plot twists or dramatic devices. No fireworks or car crashes. Ms. Tyler can get away with this because her writing is so rich and exceptional. No cliches, no over-writing, no telling-rather-than-showing. Her detail is crisp and vivid and exactly what it needs to be. Ms. Tyler is a pro.

Here's a long-ish excerpt from Noah's Compass, to show you what I mean about her vivid detail:
Most of the rowhouses were boarded up, and bits of trash flocked the gutters. The cafe, when they arrived there, didn't even have a real sign - just "PeeWeEs" scrawled in downward-slanting whitewash across the window, above a pale avocado tree struggling up from a grapefruit-juice tin on the sill. (and later....) She was leaning toward him eagerly, holding on to her Styrofoam cup with both hands, oblivious to the bra strap that had slid down her left arm (He could detect its outline through her blouse). He shifted his gaze to his coffee. Judging from the strand of bubbles skimming the surface, he wondered if it might be instant.

Love it! I can see every detail in my mind as I read her words. That is what good writing should be.

So, who are your "go-to" writers? I think all serious writers should have them, those authors they return to, time and time again - to be entertained, inspired, and mostly, taught.

1 comment:

  1. Nicholas Sparks manages to produce one successful novel after another. Debbie Macomber and Karen Kingsbury touch the hearts of women everywhere. Jane Austen's novels....so rich, so expertly-crafted, what classic books should be.