The Footsteps I Follow: Authors I Admire
by Jim Meskimen
Good authors get under your skin. As with anyone we have a high degree of admiration or affinity for, an author becomes a very significant person in a reader’s life, despite the fact that the reader may never meet them, or even exist in the same time period.
A good author is like a good guide on a dangerous trail: you want him to make sure you are following behind, and for him to not forget about you. The author has to always bear in mind that he has an audience along for the ride, and that they need to KNOW what is happening, or in the case of mysteries, NOT know… in order to eventually know and get something out of the experience.
It’s natural for beginning authors to borrow from their heroes. One walks in the footsteps of the giants that preceded one, and in that way learns to travel on one’s own. When a writer can ONLY write in the style of a predecessor, and never “leave the nest”, then he runs the risk of having his audience lose patience and simply read the less adulterated works of the originator of the style.’
I was responsible a few years back for directing multi-cast audiobook presentations of the complete fiction works of a particular author, L. Ron Hubbard. He wrote millions of words of best-selling fiction over a career that spanned more than 50 years and produced numerous New York Times Bestsellers.
In having the rare pleasure of reading Hubbard’s works in their entirety, I noticed that he was never tied down to a particular style or kind of story, but he did always achieve one effect that I found fascinating– he could paint a visual picture that was vivid enough for the reader to “observe”, and complete enough for the reader (or in our case, listener) to make his own discoveries about.
In great art, this is very key. A great painting shows the viewer the emotion, and invites him or her to make their own judgment and feel whatever they choose to project onto it. Lesser works tell us what to feel, insist that we understand things a certain way, assert it over and over again, in the case of very poor writing.
Hubbard’s fiction is literature, and great art. Rather than say “He was very nervous about the interview with the cattle baron”, he will highlight in the narrative things that will help the reader to DISCOVER the emotional state of the character, by directing our attention to the way he fingers the brim on his hat, how the furrows of his brow hold the shadows of a nearby lamp like rows in a field, or how his adam’s apple suddenly feels like it’s too big to be contained by his collar. The reader gathers these images and comes up with a self-generated idea of what it must feel like for this character. He can BE that character in the scene.
Any great author has succeeded in allowing the reader to enter the universe of his tale and his characters. That’s what we want, we readers, escape and adventure. The best take us along, show us the sights, and let us make up our own minds about what it all means.
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Genre - Mystery/Zombie
Rating – PG13
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