Thursday, 24 March 2011
Author Spotlight Week - Barbara Scott talks about her favorite author
Reading was the road to writing for me. Even very young, I remember making up stories I hope would be as good as the ones in the books I read. Consequently, I am grateful for the requirements of the yearly reading lists imposed on us in both elementary and high school.
It was through one of those lists that I was introduced to Charles Dickens at an early age, I loved reading Dickens so much that I had a crush on him (yes, I knew he was dead; I was weird) and was disappointed when he appeared on a Ponderosa episode as a completely unlikable character.
Though Dickens died in 1870, his work still remains as a source of Dos and don'ts for the modern genre writer. Here are some I've learned:
Do write to entertain your reader. Dickens wrote many of his books in serial style, often not completing later chapters until the earlier ones were on sale in the street. This method kept him aware of and adaptable to the needs of his audience.
Do create memorable characters and settings. Hero, heroine, villain, ghost and scullery maid alike were given a distinct personality. No cardboard characters fill out the background of a Dickens book. Settings also took on a life of their own. From the debtor's prison in Little Dorritt to the Cratchitt's humble home, settings become almost another character.
Don't get lost in details. What keeps most time-strapped readers from Dickens today is his overindulgence in detail. Back when there was little competition for the readers' attention such detail may have been welcome. Writers can't get away with it today.
Finally, do write with a strong theme in mind. Much of Dickens work spoke to the need for social justice, the dignity of the poor, the possibility of redemption. Theme is what separates the book or story that generates a satisfied sigh when the last page is turned and the one that leaves the reader empty.