I’m going to stay firm and not mention the Superbowl for the rest of this post, since I’m quite sure the rest of your social networking world is quite consumed with it.
No, instead I’d like to clear something up. Last semester, when I was talking to one of my professors about my desire to be a really good writer, the kind that speaks simply about not-simple things and engages readers, he asked me which writers influenced me most.
I spouted out something completely embarrassing. The only redeeming quality of the statement I made was that I included Charles Dickens in it. The question had just caught me off guard. And we should all know by now that I communicate best when I have a backspace button.
Last night, I couldn’t sleep because I had some clarity on the writers who have influenced me the most. Some of them you’d expect (as would I), but some are more surprising. All have works that are worth reading.
So, without further ado, my literary muses.
Paula Danziger – author of The Amber Brown Series. You didn’t expect that, did you? Well, Amber Brown was one of my childhood friends, and, actually, we’re still friends. I think of her every time I meet someone who has a color for a last name. And every time I make my bed while I’m still in it, I think of the line, “… the Amber Brown way to make a bed.” And many times when I cross the street I think of how her aunt told her to look both ways before crossing the street in London because otherwise she’d turn into “road pizza.” Sometimes genius doesn’t have to be in adult literature, with fancy words and complex plot structures. Sometimes it’s just in the little things, written for little girls, that stick with you.
J.K. Rowling – author of The Harry Potter Series and The Casual Vacancy. I haven’t read her adult work, but I have high praise for Rowling. Sure, the story is gripping and interesting, but what really amazes me is the complexity of the plot, that the little things that seem like insignificant details in the first and second books are lynchpins in the last book. The creativity of the wizarding world is incredible as well. It might just be the fact that I want to be everyone’s friend, but I really want her characters to be real so we can hang out. In two words, the books are: pure brilliance.
Agatha Christie – author of a million (not exactly) mystery books featuring Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. I had a summer or two where I checked out ten of her books at a time from the library. I’ve read every single one that they had. You’d think that mysteries would get old after a while, but it continued to fascinate me, book after book, how I could never call the next step. Believe me, I tried. She was always able to keep me from having any idea of what was going on – even though it was right under my nose the whole time.
C.S. Lewis and Ted Dekker – The only thing these two have in common is that they’ve written Christian fiction that is actually worth reading. It’s devoid of sappiness and unrealistic dialogue. I haven’t ever been able to appreciate the hearts of sappy Christian writers. I just appreciate really good storytelling, coupled with good mechanics, with a sound foundation in truth. They both employ incredible symbolism in their works as well. Don’t expect to find them anywhere near each other in the library though.
Jane Austen – author of Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, and Pride and Prejudice, among others. I’m proud of Jane for challenging the status quo, for not going along with what people expected of women at that time. I like her for her wittiness, for the well-rounded characters in her stories, and for writing things that lend themselves well to being made into movies. There’s no way she could have planned that, but there are some awesome BBC renditions of her novels.
And last, but most certainly not anywhere near least: Charles Dickens. The man must have had a lot of pens with which to write those long works. I love Dickens for his awesome names for his characters (in case you haven’t noticed, I refrain from using the word ‘awesome’… it’s overused…. but it applies here). Mr. Pumblesnook. Oliver Twist. Pip. Magwitch. Miss Skiffins. Spellcheck hates them, but they’re so great. In addition to that, he had such a great handle on putting deep symbolism into his books. And, on top of that, he wrote about social issues, things that were deep set into the culture that he was in. I really admire that.
And, with that, I feel redeemed. I feel as though I’ve answered the question more thoroughly and with so much better reasoning than the first time. Thank you for letting me fix that.