I suppose this is sticking my neck out– admitting what I like the most– but I wanted to mention my four most-influential novels at this point in my writing. Except for #2 I found all of them randomly on the recorded-book shelves at my library. Those, without exception, I’ve “read” more by listening than from the page.
- The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
- Enchantment by Orson Scott Card
- The Sea Wolf by Jack London
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
I will do my best to explain why they are they what I like. Doubtless I will find or remember more reasons as I continue to reread them.
- All involve a journey and a change. All build on characteristics the protagonist(s) have to begin with, but doesn’t imagine any of them are already complete (lacking only knowledge of their completeness, a la Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz).
- More than one character changes.
- All involve a thinking character watching the process of his or her thought. They are very rarely oblivious to something the reader knows (This element, btw, usually makes me feel a character is foolish. If they’re seeing what I’m seeing I usually expect them to know what I know.)
- All acknowledge (and explore to some extent) the power of relationship.
- All include thought-provoking observations of their times.
- All have good conversations.
- One potential negative: they all start slowly (I hope I don’t follow this too closely), with no punchy first line, but still intriguing in their own ways.
- They all have surprising twists and secrets that the reader discovers with the protagonist.
- All have a life at risk (at some point) and overcome an old enemy through what they’ve learned on their journey.
I love nearly everything about The Perilous Gard: Character, plot/twists, protag’s realizations driving the story, the organic inclusion of the gospel in a not-religious book.
Enchantment is something like an adult version of what I want to write– that is, based on a fairytale world and system, based in an older time.
It is “adult” in its descriptions and relationships, but not crude or explicit. It has the… holiest (maybe too strong a word?) description of sex I have ever found in fiction: the “mystical union” of man and woman both solidifying their marriage and being stronger together than individually. Children are an asset and pregnancy a key plot-point. I was also delighted to watch the interaction of several married couples.
Too many writers seem to think marriage is boring, so even when they’ll show it that negative attitude comes through. Here marriage is both present and meaningful.
The narrator of The Sea Wolf is an intellectual and a writer, and I love the way he describes his unavoidable interaction with both the intellectual and experiential aspects of human nature. The noble aspects, as well as the base.
Some *wonderfully* articulated descriptions of how men and women strengthen each other.
I’ve always loved the interaction and subtext of Jane Eyre, along with the clue-dropping that isn’t recognized until the mystery is revealed.
If I can get these types of things organically into my novels I will be thrilled.
Aim high, right?