Dec 15, 2008

[Writing] Authors Serving Different Purposes

Book ShelvesImage by Kenn Wilson via FlickrAs of late, I'm finally reading my long ago purchased copy of Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things, an anthology of various short stories he's written. Like any other frustrated writer, reading really good stories or novels from authors like Gaiman are certain to trigger a wide variety of possible reactions and thoughts. As I pondered over my own sentiments based on this particular Gaiman creation, the idea for this entry really came to be.

As much as I love and respect a select number of authors, I appreciate them for very different reasons and they make me think or do different things as well. Yes, I know there's nothing special about this and it's a near certainty given the diverse world of writing and who unique we all are as individuals, but still I thought it would be an interesting exercise to think about the authors I like and try to better understand what each one brings to my virtual writing table.

Let's start with the author that triggered this entire line of thought - Neil Gaiman.This master of the fantastic and mystical is one of those rare authors that really strike me in a significant way. Sure, like many other I recognize and respect his talent as a writer and I enjoy reading his various works, but that's not it. For me in particular, Neil Gaiman is the author that inspires me to write. I can constantly battle with the challenge of writer's block on my own as long as I want to but there are few writers that make me want to return to the desk and try again. Gaiman is that kind of an author for me - he just does something for me that makes me want to try writing again and again and again even though I often run out of steam and hit road blocks as I try to develop stories to their logical end.

In contrast, the man I tout as my more favorite author of all - Frank Herbert - does not inspire the same creative drive in me. Instead Herbert is the man I return to in order to find new insights or wisdom to some extent. I've read all of the core Dune Chronicles books and I've re-read all of them countless times already. With every reading I uncover some new gem or marvel, something else that reminds me of just how complex the world out there is and how closely we skirt danger just by being human in a world of average people. I don't necessarily go running back to write down my thoughts after an intimate encounter with Herbert;s stories, but the intellectual exercise is certainly refreshing in its own way and certainly rewarding one way or another.

Another author I go out of my way to follow is the rather enigmatic Haruki Murakami. I couldn't possibly expect to write stories of the same caliber as he does nor could I claim to fully understand everything he writes about. Oh no, Murakami certainly has a way of testing the very limits of your imagination at times and then effortlessly breaks those definitions apart and forces you to re-think your perspective of the fantastic. Murakami is the author I return to when I want to feel a sense of wonder with the world and to better appreciate the possibility of things beyond our mortal ken. His stories make even the most mundane events become extraordinarily strange given his penchant for blurring the lines between cold reality and surreal fantasy.

Then there's Terry Pratchett who I dare not try to emulate in terms of writing style and who clearly does not inspire one into deep philosophical thinking. Instead I turn to him for humor of a higher order - not your common slapstick or tired cliches but more along the lines of witty and intelligent humor, pointed barbs formed by word craft that really provide an interesting perspective to things and never fail to make me smile. His Discworld novels retain a very special place in my heart (and in my shelving arrangement) given they're the kind of books a pseudo-intellectual geek like myself can always return to when the "real world" gets too overwhelming.

That's just a sampling of how I view the authors I tag as my "favorites" or ones that I like / follow, and you very well know there's a lot more to be said about any one of those authors. I might even take the time to expand this into a full sries of entries with more details and actual citations from their works in order to explain my thinking, who knows right? But of course, these are just my authors of interest.

How about you geeky reader? What authors do you follow? Do you know why you do? Do they inspire you into action or just into deep thought? Do they make you want to follow in their footsteps as writers or do they simply give you something to do when the power's out? Have you ever really taken a long, deep, hard look at the kinds of stories or books that you read and tried to figure out why?

Perhaps it's time you did. There's certainly value in the suggestion.
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