Let’s Talk!

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Here’s where we get to gab about words: reading them and writing them. Come talk with me. Just pop your replies and questions into Comments, and we’re off to the races!

TLChurcher over at http://homeandspirit.wordpress.com asked me what writers influenced me. In her comment (see my post The Workshop), she was kind enough to say that she finds my style beautiful and that she feels it is like the style of past centuries. Her suggestion that I write a post addressing these thoughts kicked off this page, so here goes.

My influences are varied and the list is far too long to post, but I’ve read my “classics”. I read them before I picked up a lot of modern works because that was what was lying around the house when I started reading as a child. Not that anyone else was reading them. They were gorgeous derelicts, revered as good literature but more often than not losing their audience to dogeared Louis L’Amour paperbacks. The language of those bygone days enchanted me, and it stuck. I guess if I’d discovered noir thrillers first, my style might be hard boiled. But I picked up Dickens, Austen, the Brontes, Wilkie Collins, and even Shakespeare. I read myths and fairy tales and ghost stories by the bale. No one paid much attention and I was free to read what I liked.

As an adult, I revisited the folk tale compilations of the Grimms, Anderson, and Perrault, and devoured retellings by modern writers. Angela Carter has been a great influence. I love the ghost stories of M.R. James and Edith Wharton. Poe is a huge influence, of course. Lovecraft. I’m a dedicated Stephen King fan. Alice Hoffman. Joyce Carol Oates. Shirley Jackson. Dean Koontz. So many I can’t even think of all of them just now.

I always go for the story, and it has to be great, but language is important, too. Very nearly as important to me as story. I don’t particularly like literary “stories” where nothing really happens and the language is high brow and academically slick. I’m not sophisticated enough for that. I’m a grubber in the story trenches, a miner for thrills. I like to have my emotions played like a violin, but I need my guts to be engaged, too. And through all of this, the language has to be dazzling. Beautiful. Powerful. Gritty and fearless. I want masters who know what language can do, and who bend and weave it in ways that make me catch my breath in awe. I want the spell of being there, in the story, not merely outside the covers looking in.

Anyway, those are the things I look for as a reader, the things that inspire me. As a writer, I hope to be able to work even a bit of that kind of magic, and when a reader likes it – well, that’s just about the best feeling in the world. It’s always all for the readers.

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4 thoughts on “Let’s Talk!

  1. You are a beautiful writer who has a healthy respect for the language. How can one possibly tell a story without the magic of well-chosen words? A while ago, I wrote on my blog something that might interest you. “I wish I had the way of words of a Dylan Thomas, to allow them to whoop-whoosh across pates like crazy clowns pommeling, pushing, pulling,anticking the page in black/white/red/green/purple flashes, giant glove-handed and slippered, bursting with raucous, joyful movement and sound. Like The Fool at the precipice, sure of his lack of footing,certain in his uncertainty, his eyes not focused below on the long, deep drop to the rocks, but upward to the light that blinds his terror and leads him to take that leap of faith. It is all right the way it s. I need words that travel and dance with a sense of dignity and crazy-sure knowledge that rises from the gut-soul to float and gambol and dive
    into the air/sea substance that is eternal, revolving, evolving energy.
    In the beginning was the word. Who will have the last one?”

    1. Thank you, Patricia, that means a lot coming from someone who has made a life of the English language. What you’ve written about wishing for Thomas’s way of words is exquisite and cuts right to the yearning point. I remember very well the day my mind was blown by the magic of Gerard Manley Hopkins – it was many years ago and I’ve yet to recover. To be shown what is possible with words, to have that door opened, is to be consumed by a passion to do the same oneself. It’s a carrot bobbing forever out of reach, I think, but the pursuit is it’s own reward.

  2. Well, I did read the Westerns, too. I read the cereal boxes! Anything with words. George MacDonald sounds wonderful, and I’ll be looking for him. Lisey’s Story is an excellent King. One of my favorites is The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

  3. Wonderful! My parents had books like those you mentioned on their shelves. A lot I read and was encouraged by my father at a young age to read classics. Louis L’amour was in our house too but I never picked them up. I have discovered my love of Stephen King only in the past few years and perhaps strangely enough have a special place in my heart for ‘Lisey’s Story’. Some of the other authors you have mentioned I will have to look them up. I think you would like George MacDonald. He is mostly known for his children’s books, ‘The Princess and The Goblin’ and ‘At The Back of The North Wind’ but he has also written more grown up faery tales. (I do mean faery with an ‘e’ not the saccharine fairy) ‘Phantastes’ and ‘The Light Princess’ are good ones to start. I do love books but I’ll stop rambling now!

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