Tuesday, March 22, 2011

As a Writer, What Fiction Should I Be Reading?

       You know, two of my high school classmates (that I know of…that I’m still friends with…) are writers. When I first started connecting with people online a few years ago, I was stunned and amazed at their pursuit of the writerly profession. A little intimidated. Ok, maybe a tad jealous.

One, I will call E, she writes historical fiction and writes a fabulous blog: professional, thoughtful, intellectual. I wanted to be her. I felt like I was in high school again, striving to be in with the cool kids. She read intellectual fare and I, at first, thought, “Is this what I should be reading? Is this what good writers read?” Shouldn’t I love Faulkner, quote from Yeats, memorize Whitman? (I’ve been reading the poetry issue of O, Magazine!) I’ve never read Austen (although I love “her” movies! Lol), never owned a Sylvia Plath or read Ayn Rand or Tolstoy.....

What did it say about me that my favorite authors were Stephenie Meyer, JK Rowling, Charlaine Harris and Anne Bishop? (Let’s not forget Kim Harrison and Diana Gabaldon!!) These ladies are all fabulous writers---best-sellers to boot!---but are they on par with the aforementioned greats?  Shouldn't my favorite novels be The Great Gatsby or Farewell to Arms or
Anna Karenina?

After many weeks of trying to alter my reading habits and trying to alter my writing style, so it was more intellectual, polished and striving to be literature, I realized very abruptly: that is not my voice. That is not what I am trying to say. I am trying to say: action, adventure, wit, sarcasm, romance, heat, crazy good plotting, writing structure---in short, I am saying many things but “literature,” ain’t one of them! I write what I love to read. I love E, I love her work, I think she is a beautiful person, but I am not her. You’d think this would be common sense, but don’t we all, as writers, strive to imitate someone (consciously or unconsciously?).

Furthermore, I realized I do have a love of “literature,” just not E’s kind. I liked the VERY old dead white guys. I looked on my bookshelves and noticed what I had kept from college: Plato. Ovid. Shakespeare. Homer. Aeschylus. Marcus Aurelius. This is where I feel comfortable I think because I expect dry, deep, intense and intellectual from these guys. (I don’t mean to sound insulting when I use the word “dry.” I guess I mean, not flowing, lyrical prose, not usually, but more to the point without excessive adjectives…dry!) When I get in bed at night, or settle down at my farmhouse kitchen table with a cup of tea and a sandwich, I want to get swept away. I want to get drawn in immediately; I want to be eager to return. I learned some very old writing advice first-hand: write what you know. I don’t read high-brow, contemporary literature. I write action fantasty/sci-fi.

And I’m happy with that.

So what do you read? 


1 comment:

  1. dystopians! and science fiction/fantasy. the writing is so creative, I love it! BUT I also like to read fun contemporaries sometimes.

    Try to read from every genre. =] sandra brown says read every day!


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