(Did it work? Do I have your attention?)
Beowulf is one of those works of literature that, quite honestly, never interested me. Some beefy warrior kills a monster, and then he kills another one, and there’s a dragon in there somewhere, and at the end (spoiler alert!), he dies. I maintained a scornful disinterest for this epic over the course of a decade, until my conversion in my mid-twenties. Here’s how it went down.
“Melancholy men, they say, are the most incisive humorists; by the same token, writers of fantasy must be, within their own frame of work, hardheaded realists. What appears gossamer is, underneath, solid as prestressed concrete. What seems so free in fantasy is often inventiveness of detail rather than complicated substructure. Elaboration — not improvisation.” ~Lloyd Alexander, “The Flat-Heeled Muse”
When it comes to fantasy, everyone has a starter series, right? That first set of books that gives you a glimpse of worlds beyond, that whets your appetite and cultivates your imagination: the starter series sets the bar for every series that follows. Is it better? Is it worse? Does it have similar themes? Similar characters? Similar plots? Similar settings? Does it evoke that same sense of wonder, or a greater sense of wonder, or does it leave the acrid taste of disappointment in your mouth?
Cynicism taints almost every facet of my life. This may seem like an odd confession to make at the start of a literary influences post—especially one that focuses on the eternally optimistic works of L.M. Montgomery—but I feel like it has to be said. I acquired my cynicism by degrees from a pretty young age. By the sixth grade, I was a smart-mouthed, sarcastic, socially isolated 11-year-old. My only reliable friends were books (and with little wonder, given my temperament).
That was the year I met Anne of Green Gables.
“That’s the ending? You can’t just end it there!”
These are the words my mother uttered when she finished reading my first draft of Kingdom of Ruses. It has a sort of open ending, I’ll admit, but intentionally so. The major plot points are resolved, the hero has triumphed, and all is well, so the story ends. (Sorry for the spoilers, all ye who have not read it: Surprise! It’s not a tragedy!)
Heaven forbid that any of Thomas Hardy’s characters should ever get a paper cut; they’d probably saw off the injured limb in response.
I feel kind of odd listing him as one of my literary influences. He’s more my template of “what not to do,” which is terrible, because he’s generally considered to be a good writer, and many of his works are counted among the classics. I’ll set the stage for my dislike, shall I?
Over the course of my life, I’ve compiled a sort of Writing To-Do List. I would encounter genres or general plot types and think, “Oh, I’d like to write something along those lines someday.” And just like that, the item in question would hop on to my mental list.
It wasn’t a serious list at first, of course. I’ve treated my writing very casually and for the greater part of my life never believed that I could finish even one book, let alone an assorted spectrum of them. (This is foolishness, of course, but I labored under it for probably fifteen years, and I still battle with a variation of it to this day.) Recently, though, as I’ve been taking a more serious look at this my chosen pastime, I decided it was time to define and review that list of genres and tropes.Read More »Jack of All Genres
I grew up with the belief that commercial publishing was the only really legit form of publishing. If you published yourself, it didn’t really “count,” because anyone could do it. There’s a kernel of truth to that belief, but it’s buried under a whole load of biased assumptions.Read More »The Indie-Pub Apologist