Last Friday, I saw Crazy, Stupid, Love. In it, Ryan Gosling‘s character is trying to teach Steve Carell how to pick up women. Gosling asks Carell if he has seen The Karate Kid, mentioning the scene where Mr. Miyagi teaches his pupil by having him wax. By paying attention to Gosling, Carell had been figuring out how to connect with women.
For me, I get the same thing through reading various authors.
There’s J.R.R. Tolkien. His stories are powerful, but most of the story isn’t told through narrative but through the conversations of his characters. It’s not difficult to imagine Ian McKellen telling the tale of Sauron in his powerful and magnetic voice. But by using dialogue, the words and sentences are simpler. It’s easy to digest and harder to put down, simply because of how well the tale is told.
Then there’s Robert E. Howard. The creator of Conan the Barbarian, he had a passion for bold and powerful descriptions. His character was beyond larger than life, but rather like Atlas, a titan who carried the world on his shoulders. The poignant paragraphs swamped the mind and made the stories a challenge to enter. But once you were in the story, you keep going. And it grows on you and grows and grows. But it frustrated me because most of his work was short stories, so they often came to abrupt endings. Only The Hour of the Dragon kept going, and as such it was probably my favorite of his works. Like a horse walk that builds to a trot before galloping to glory.
Stieg Larsson is new to my repertoire, and his writing style is completely different than the rest of them. The difference being is that the pieces written by Howard and Tolkien were fantasy pieces from the imagination, but Larsson’s work stemmed from his experiences as a writer. I’ve only finished one of his books and will check out the other two eventually, but the thing I love about this guy is his ability to develop characters. They are very deep, complex characters who don’t always follow society’s rules. Sadly, I cannot really rely on his writing style for short stories because a single character would eat up so much space within the story, unless introducing the character is the entire point of the tale.
I could go on with more examples, but I think my point has been made. That in reading of the work of these men, I like to pretend that I’ve learned a little something about writing.
Maybe. Possibly. No? Okay…
Still, everyone learns from someone. We are usually fans before we are writers ourselves. And I figured, it’s always good sometimes to reconnect with those people who inspire you. To never lose sight of the where it all comes from. And to build these little shrines in our own writing, these mementos so we don’t forget. Guess I’m just sentimental like that.