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Literary Role Models
Danielle Poiesz
Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 7:38 PM
When I was at RWA National last month, there was a fantastic panel during the Opening Session with Diana Gabaldon, Tess Geritsen, and Steve Barry. They broached a number of topics from powering through a story, to creating characters, to why they write.

But one of the topics I found most interesting was when they starting talking about their "literary role models." It was so much fun to see them get excited about their favorite authors and books.

Diana spoke of Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Dorothy Sayers, and PG Wodehouse; Tess cited Stephen King as "the master of the child character"; and Steve chatted about Clive Cussler, Robert Ludlum, Dan Brown, and David Morrell.

Who are YOUR literary role models and why? What do you think we can all learn from them?

Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 7:45 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224

The list is almost too long to go into, but I'll do three of mine.

Ann McCaffrey -- Pern, The Crystal Singer, Lightwing... you name it, I love it. There is just something so captivating about her stories that I keep coming back to them even years after I've read the first ones. I never got into Sci Fi as much as I did fantasy, but this is my first choice for a quick, enjoyable Sci-Fi Fix.

Mercedes Lackey -- I've always loved Valdemar, and her stories were really the ones that triggered me to want to tell stories of my own. I loved how she had so many tales in the same world over different time periods, and was what spurred me to create my own world that I write almost exclusively in now.

Finally, Robin McKinley. Particularly The Blue Sword and the Hero and the Crown. Both of these stories really caught my imagination and held it. I come back to these books usually two or three times a year just to go back to my roots on what I loved to write.

That's it from the peanut gallery!
Danielle Bowers
Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 8:15 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 280

RJBlain already mentioned two of my favorite authors...Lackey and McCaffrey.

Another person I really look up to as a writer is Jane Espenson. She writes for television and any episode she pens is amazing. She's written for Buffy, Firefly, Torchwood and Game of Thrones on top of having a couple big projects of her own.

Kathleen Giles Seidel is another author I really admire for her character development in stories.
Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 9:17 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

Tolkien. Jasper Fforde.
Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 9:33 PM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 216

Douglas Cooper, hands down. Cooper knows how to structure a novel. He'll work for months on an outline and two years + on the actual novel. Reading his books is like trying to open a complex puzzle box; every plot device, no matter how innocuous, exists for a good reason. But until you get to the end of the novel, you can't see how everything fits together. His writing is very cinematic (visual) — that's the only way I can describe it. Every good habit I've acquired is probably due to him.

The late Angela Carter. She wrote a slew of adult short stories based on children's fairy tales. Gives one an idea of how to tweak existing archetypes and make them far more fascinating and multidimensional. I'm a sucker for Carter because she's so incredibly lyrical — the literary equivalent of Ravel, Faure, Debussy, Satie. That style isn't appreciated as much as it should be, IMHO.

And Sarah Bird, who writes contemporary women's fiction. What I love about Sarah's work is that she manages to be witty and downright hilarious without ever writing pure froth. Her writing has a very organic quality insofar that it's easy to believe that the women she's writing about may be people you know. There will be a few times in her novels when reaching for the Kleen-ex is necessary.
Karrie Zai
Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 11:28 PM
Joined: 4/28/2011
Posts: 13

Brandon Sanderson is easily the literary role model I respect most, both in terms of writing skill and the way he approaches the craft.

I really respect Suzanne Collins' writing skill, but not so much her approach toward her fans.

Orson Scott Card is also one of my role models, and I really appreciate the fact that he devotes time to judging the Writers of the Future contest.

A few years ago I would have said George R.R. Martin, but the six-year gap between books effectively killed that for me.

That's about it off the top of my head.
Tawni Peterson
Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 3:20 PM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 69

I am with Karrie on Orson Scott Card. There isn't much I DONT like about him. I have read both sides of the Ender series twice.

I have to say, I love Francine Rivers. The fact that she writes for a primarily "Christian" audience, and yet doesn't shy away from more difficult topics and some of the uglies in our histories.

Jane Austen--Its cliche, but if I am being honest, she pretty much embodies all I hope to become as a writer. She challenged cultural norms, and did so with a wit that commanded an audience. She also wrote emotionally 'real' and emotionally engaging characters.

L R Waterbury
Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 4:26 PM
Joined: 4/28/2011
Posts: 60

Tawni, I have to second you on Jane Austen, but for slightly different reasons. She was an absolute genius at illustrating character through dialogue and she did it with an absolute minimum of description. The opening of Sense and Sensibility where Mr. and Mrs. Dashwood discuss how best to comply with the father's deathbed wishes is, as far as I'm concerned, one of the best I've ever read in terms of telling us who people really are through what they say.

Another writer I've always admired is Annie Dillard for her ability to say absolutely nothing brilliantly, especially in her more introspective, memoir-ish books. That's a skill I never have any hope whatsoever of acquiring. She also has an unparalleled knack for choosing the right--and sometimes obscure--vocabulary without it coming off sounding like she's practicing for her SATs.
Tara Kollas
Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2011 12:58 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 19

So many to list. I'd say they are role models in that they inspired me to write. But my writing style (and in some cases, preferred genre) are so different.

Ray Bradbury, particularly his short stories, for his ability to evoke a time period I never experienced except through his writing. I read Dandelion Wine and somehow knew what it was like to be a twelve-year-old boy growing up in a small town in the 40's.

Stephen King, for scaring the pants off me when I was a kid. I remember reading It in the middle of summer, sitting on a porch swing in the full light of day, and being terrified. I haven't read much of his recent stuff. But I appreciated his ability to entertain, which is what I aspire to do with my writing more than anything else.

George R. R. Martin, for giving characters shades of grey. I am truly envious of his ability to make me care, or at least have sympathy for, characters who seem so irredeemable at first glance (re: Jaime Lannister, the Hound).

Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 11:16 AM
Joined: 5/4/2011
Posts: 20

Any New Wave sci-fi authors for attempting to blend literature with genre fiction. My personal favorites are Michael Moorcock and Robert Silverberg.
Alexandria Brim
Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 4:49 AM
Joined: 10/20/2011
Posts: 353

I, too, love Jane Austen and her writing style. I loved how she created characters that are still popular centuries after original publication.

Another role model for me is Ann Rinaldi. I read American Girl and Dear America, but thought they were educational. It wasn't until my aunt gave me my first Rinaldi book that I realized it was a separate genre. That's when I knew I wanted to write in it as well.
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 2:16 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416

Robin McKinley, for her ability to make characters that I INSTANTLY care about. I'm with Blain on her, The Hero and the Crown was one of my first fantasy books I read as a kid, and I reread it every few years.

Asimov, for his ability to present information in conversation, and create unique voices.

Harlan Ellison and Theodore Sturgeon, for their ability to just rip emotion out of me, manipulate it like a clown on an animal balloon to the shape they want, and shove it back down my throat.

LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Friday, February 10, 2012 12:45 AM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

I must say Ursula K Le Guin. Every time I read one of her works I am left breathless with how much it has captured, no, enraptured me. Her voice was so unique. I read The Left Hand of Darkness and can no longer think of gender the same. She changed me. She's such a strong female literary figure in the Science Fiction and Fantasy community. I can't help but look up to her.

I was introduced to her by a student I shared a class with. He was a huge fan, but was also interested in reading my work. I must admit I found it quite the high compliment when he said that something about my stuff reminded me of her, but I am no where close.

Posted: Sunday, February 19, 2012 8:50 PM
Joined: 7/18/2011
Posts: 25

Agatha Christie - I've been reading her for as long as I can remember. While her stories are more basic and predictable than I prefer these days, they're still great for a quick afternoon read. I find it inspiring how many stories and plots she was able to crank out.

Jeffrey Deaver - In high school, I was quickly pulled in by his misdirection skills.

Dennis Lehane - I've grown fond of his tendency to explore not just the crimes, but why the characters are affected by the crime.

Last week I saw Harlan Coben give a speech at The Center For Fiction NYC. I've only read 2 of his book so far, but his approach to writing has me wanting to read more. He started the speech by saying, "A book is like a sausage - you may like the way it tastes at the end, but you do not want to know what goes into making it."

Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 10:28 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356

Bumping this up!

Elizabeth Moon
Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2012 11:43 PM
Joined: 6/14/2012
Posts: 195

Jane Austen, for reasons cited above and because of the quiet and penetrating wit.

Robert Surtees (19th c. British writer of hunting stories) for sheer hilarity and brilliant observation of character--he's the outdoor/masculine viewpoint where Austen is the more indoor, feminine viewpoint.  (Mr. Sponge's Sporting Tour is a good place to start, though I like 'em all.)

Anthony Trollope for the Barchester books, for The Eustace Diamonds, for everything.  Again--wonderful characterization, combined with insight, wit, good writing.

Rudyard Kipling for the range, the intensity, the vividness, and some of the most gorgeous sentences every (in "My Son's Wife" for instance--the catalog of the house.)   A Fleet in Being (nonfiction) for the same vividness applied to nonfiction, and historical value (fleet exercises by the Royal Navy shortly before WWI.)

Arthur Ransome for his children's books (I discovered them as an adult)--characters, plot, suspense, etc. all in a small compass and readable by adults.  Competent but very human children coping with difficulties, some of which they've created.  Upgrade to adult interests and problems, and the structure is sound.  Start with Swallows and Amazons or Winter Holidays.  

Nevil Shute, for fascinating "average" characters who are nonetheless competent and interesting people.  My favorite here is Trustee from the Toolroom.  Taught me a lot.

Anne Parrish's All Kneeling...how to write brilliant satire.

Thorne Smith...how to write slightly raunchy very funny weird stuff (dated now, but I read it as a kid and howled with glee.)  Turnabout.

Daphne du Maurier...The King's General, historical fiction, terrified me when I read it too young.  Rebecca...brrr.  "The Blue Glasses" (SF, pretty much)  She wrote horror that wasn't labeled horror and exposed the horror around us.

Dorothy L. Sayers.  Gaudy Night.  'Nuff said, though I love all the Wimsey stories.

Marjory Allingham.  Also mysteries, different emotional/intellectual tone, but...The Estate of the Beckoning Lady is one glorious rollicking romp of an Albert Campion mystery.  .

Lord Dunsany.  Wonderful, clean-edged, fantasy.  The chapter on the forging of the sword in The King of Elfland's Daughter is pure poetry.and made the hairs rise up along my spine.

Andre Norton, for the range and quality of her storytelling.  Very much not a one-trick pony, very good with her resarch. 

Anne McCaffrey, for the "warm" tone of her writing, her engaging characters, and her sense of humor.

C.J. Cherryh for her many varieties of alienness and culture contact/conflict--also great characters and plots, but where she really stands out is her ability to create truly alien cultures that stretch the reader's mind--and they're not all alike. 

And I could go on for hours, but that's enough for one round.

DG Downer
Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 9:23 PM
Joined: 11/11/2012
Posts: 13

What a cool topic: Literary role models and what we can learn from them.
I think the first thing we can learn from them is how to write a book.
Like you, I am sure, I am a big reader. I tend to stick to the genres that I like, but also venture off. I get a kick out of writers who expand from their comfort zone, like Steven King writing fantasy or Robert B. Parker writing westerns. By reading them I think I have learned that a writer can write; he can tell a story. I love that Janet Evanovich went from writing romance novels to writing Stephanie Plum. When asked about the change, she responded something like she was tired of being serious and wanted to have fun. That, to me, is writing. Enough of the self indulgent, over rated crap, (thank you, Bull Durham). Just tell a story. If it has a moral at the end, even if ambiguous, (Dennis Lehane), just tell a story that is put down in such a way that other folk would want to read it.
That being said, here are some of my literary role models: (In addition to those mentioned)
John D. MacDonald, James Lee Burke, Carl Hiassen, Tim Dorsey, Lee Child, Elmore Leonard, John Sanford, James Patterson, Clive Cussler. My gosh, the list goes on forever. The one thing I think they have in common: They tell a story. Beginning, Middle and End. They tell a story. It is how they are able to tell the story in written form that separates them from the rest of us schmucks.
'Tis only my opinion. Thank you for the prompt. 

Nevena Georgieva
Posted: Friday, December 21, 2012 3:56 PM
Joined: 2/9/2012
Posts: 438

Social implications through worldbuilding & story in a sci-fi book --> China Mieville

Characterization, esp. of beautiful but silly women --> George Eliot

POV/Interior monologue/Voice --> Jane Austen

AJ Mortimer
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 11:30 AM
Joined: 2/21/2013
Posts: 1

Darren Shan, he's not one of my favourite writers but his books were my childhood and he's the reason I started writing.
Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 4:18 PM
Rosamunde Pilcher. She's my hero. When I need a reminder of what showing the reader looks like, I pull out her books - and I don't even write in her genre! The way she writes, the reader is immersed into the story. You forget there is a story. It's like living the life of the character right along as it happens in the book. It's my dream to be able to write like that!

Milena A
Posted: Monday, May 20, 2013 8:35 AM
Joined: 5/19/2013
Posts: 3

At this point in time, Amos Oz and Orhan Pamuk are the closest to my heart. Oddly the do not influence my style in any visible or constructive kind of way.
As far as style goes, I am smitten by Annie Proulx's way of writing and way of being.
Genre: Anne Rice. Next to giants like Tolkien, she's always been my guilty little pleasure.

Atthys Gage
Posted: Monday, May 20, 2013 10:30 AM
Joined: 6/7/2011
Posts: 467

Certain writers I can go back to time and again and always get the same visceral thrill:  Nabokov, Borges, Samuel Delany.  It's undefinable, I think, but some writers are so good I just like to sit back and be dazzled.  Among more contemporary writers, Anne Patchett is very good (quiet, understated, but powerful).  I can always get a buzz from Raymond Chandler, or one of Tiptree's short stories.
Toni Smalley
Posted: Saturday, June 8, 2013 4:03 AM
I love Stephen King. On Writing is the greatest writing book I have read to date, and I've read many writing books. I love watching him do interviews. He is so down-to-earth. As long as he is being true to himself, he doesn't care what anyone thinks. He will swear inappropriately, wear grungy t-shirts and jeans, and tell you exactly what's on his mind. And, he is an amazing writer; he revolutionized the horror genre. Reading his books when I was in 3rd grade might have traumatized me, but it made me want to write, and to never stop writing. He took away my fears of restraint. You should just write what is in your mind, heart and soul and never try to fit it into a little box of social acceptability.  
Posted: Saturday, November 23, 2013 4:41 PM

Truth be told, we learn virtually nothing from authors we admire. We can learn more about writing from Stephen King's "On Writing" than his novels. A great writer's style is more prone to be imitated, with futile results, than used for instruction. While reading great literature primes the creative pump, it in no way reveals any secrets for success. The magic of creation never follows a road map and success never leaps out with a smiling face. Did you know that Melville went through twenty names before he settled on "Ishmael" in that famous opening line of Moby Dick? Moreover, by the time of Melville's death Moby Dick was virtually forgotten.

Books never endure simply because they inspire young writers to literary posterity. "The Great Gatsby", in my estimation the greatest American novel, was out of print when when Fitzgerald died. While I loved the book, it, so far as I could tell, made no lasting impression on my writing. We write essentially because we have a passion to do so, and harbor an ego that dupes us into believing that through writing we can recreate the world to our own liking. Great writing has the power to cajole, to inspire, to conjure whatever greatness that may be lurking in the matrix of our beings; but at the end of the day it is what we produce in our quiet little rooms, through an excruciating process that shakes the very portals of the earth, that decides our place in the pantheon of immortal writers.


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