1. tjoudega
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    tjoudega New Member

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    What did you learn from your favourite novels?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by tjoudega, Sep 18, 2013.

    Hello all,

    I really learned a lot by reading great books from great authors. But a few amazing novels really opened my eyes in one (or a few) aspects of writing.

    Do you feel the same thing? What were those things you learned from other authors?

    As an example, here are a few of mine:

    Vladimir Nabokov - Lolita: From this novel I learned that adjectives are not only descriptive in their meaning, but can add a lot of depth to the athmosphere and reading pleasures, as Nabokov often alliterates, rhymes, and captures the mood in one word.

    Charles Dickens - Great Expectations: From Dickens I learned to psychologically describe reasons behind actions the main character takes, or things he says. Although sometimes it can come across as too descriptive and logical, it really brings the reader into the mind of the main character.

    I have many more, of course (also minor ones), but I'll save them as I am curious to yours!

    Yours,

    Thomas
     
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  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    The first few books that made an impression on me as a writer (and a reader) was Robert Muchamore's CHERUB series, beginning when I was 11 or so. In reading those books, I learned to make dialogue realistic. I learned to listen to real people and hear how they actually speak, gesture, and so on.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea showed me that the simplest stories could be the most powerful.

    Michener's Tales of the South Pacific showed me that the secret to a great historical novel is not the history, but the personal stories of the characters in it.

    E. M. Forster's A Passage to India showed how to present multiple conflicting points of view.

    Anthony Trollope's Phineas Finn showed how an author can take a personal favorite pastime (in Trollope's case, fox hunting) and weave it into the fabric of a novel.

    James Thurber's My Life and Hard Times showed the power of self-deprecating humor.
     
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  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Nabokov, Conrad, & Peake (and maybe a couple others) showed me I'll never be able to write as good as they did.

    Everyone else showed me I don't have to write as good as Nabokov, Peake, or Conrad to tell a good story.
     
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  5. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Bret Easton Ellis showed me I can get away with anything as long as it's relevant to the plot (American Psycho, Rules of Attraction).

    Vigdis Grimsdottir showed me how to write cool female characters (Jag Heter Isbjörg, Jag är ett Lejon).

    J. R. R. Tolkien showed me that there are actual formulas for different feels, such as making something feel epic, cozy, scary, or whatever (LOTR).

    William Dale Jennings showed me that philosphical stories don't need to be boring as well as how to take a short, simple tale, a little poem, or even just one sentence, and turn it into a novel (The Ronin, my deserted island book).
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Heller's Catch-22 and O'Brien's The Poor Mouth taught me how to write comedy, which I think is one of the hardest things to do. Other than that, I've learned a lot of things from different writers (too many to name here).
     
  7. Hagi
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    Hagi Member

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    From the novel "Dark Dreaming Dexter" I learned that contreversial traits of a character can still make the character a protagonist and a likeable character.
    It's all the way you present the character is that matters. The writer can make harsh things look normal and even usefull
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    What I've learned from all my favourite novels is that style should never overwhelm a story.

    If the story sucks me in and doesn't drop me till the end, THAT'S the book that will stick with me forever. I like coming out of a book with a sense of disorientation, as if I've been living in another world for a while. If the author's style is too intrusive, self-consciously clever, erudite or minimalist, that doesn't happen.

    For me, it's always the story itself, first and foremost. My goal is to become a storyteller on paper, not a writerly 'writer.'
     
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  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    From 'Wind-up Bird Chronicles' I learned how to tell a story inspired by one of the elements (eastern philosophy). That book is the most wonderful study of Water I have ever seen.

    From Dostoyevsky, I learned the beauty of language, without being purple, or self-indulgent.

    From 'Lolita' I learned how to make complex antagonists.

    From 'The Count of Monte Cristo' and 'Three Musketeers' I learned how an epic is told.
     
  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    On the first day of my junior year of high school, our English teacher asked us how many had read Orwell's Animal Farm. Virtually the entire class had read it, so he told us he was going to ask permission to assign Catch-22 instead. To our surprise, they allowed it. So, I went up to him after class and said, "What do I do if I've already read that, too?" "Read it again," he replied. When I asked him why, he asked, "How did you find it when you read it?" I told him I thought it was hysterically funny. He nodded and said, "Read it again and tell me what you think this time."

    So, I did and I was surprised to find it extremely bitter. When I told him that, he said, "And if you read it a third time, it will seem very philosophical." I did, and I found he was right.

    That was the same year I discovered Thurber. And while I was initially attracted to his writings for the humor, I soon found that there was also a great deal of warmth, there, and not a little poignancy and even pain. This is true of O. Henry's writings as well, and in the films and plays of Neil Simon.
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I've read Catch-22 a few times now, and I've had a similar experience. That's the sign of a great book IMO.
     
  12. live2write
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    live2write Contributing Member

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    From all the books I have read, I learned that I have to read and write more
     
  13. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    Peter Benchley (JAWS) - Drive on with the story and keep distractions to a minimum. Build up momentum and keep pushing forward.
     

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