I am often asked the question, “Which writers have inspired you?” As an avid reader, there have been so many writers I have come to admire, but three wise men stand out from the crowd. These writers not only enchant us with their penmanship, but they have changed the way stories are told by the modern writer; they have aided in the development of our craft itself.
The first of these is Charles Dickens, our Nineteenth Century hero who was responsible for two things in creative writing; the rounded character, and the structured plot. Before Dickens all heroes were more saintly than solid, they had no character flaws whatsoever, and the villains in literature were as evil as Old Nick himself.
Dickens recognized that real people were not like that, and he invested his heroes with flaws, and his villains with some redeeming quality. Ebenezer Scrooge loved unselfishly once, A Christmas Carol, and Pip, Great Expectations, became a snob. In A Tale of Two Cities, the plot structure is flawless. Hardly a single character in the entire book fails to move the story forwards, nothing is wasted. Every character is vital to the plot in some way.
The acid test of this in any story is to ask the question: If this character was removed from the plot would the story remain the same? If the answer to that is “Yes”, the character is superfluous. Dickens taught us much.
Moving to the Twentieth Century we arrive at Harold Robbins. Here we find a development in writing that caused a resurgence in the paperback.
Between Dickens and Robbins, the narrative in fiction was what I call Pure English. Sentence structure put together with the care and precision of a watchmaker. Robbins realized this distanced the reader from the writer subconsciously, as no-one in real life tells a story that way. Robbins told his tale in the same way you would hear it in the pub. He wrote his narratives as though the reader was sitting next to him, and he was just telling them a story. He wrote as we speak, and the readers loved it. His characters spoke as people speak, and when The Carpetbaggers was published in 1961 it became an international best seller virtually overnight, and changed the face of popular fiction forever.
With one foot on the shoulder of Dickens, and his other foot on the shoulder of Robbins, Stephen King has become a giant. With rounded characters weaving solid plots, speaking as we speak, and moving through a narrative we could hear in the pub, Stephen King has become the most popular fiction writer of today. His books sell in their millions, and nearly all have made the transition to film.
Here the mix of Dickens and Robbins completes a heady cocktail of penmanship that makes us want to consume more and more until we are sated and satisfied. For any aspiring writer these three wise men will teach them all they could ever wish to know.
Martin Slevin began his writing career with the Little Girl in the Radiator, a biography of his time spent as the main carer for his mother who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. The book won the British Medical Association’s Book of the Year (Chairman’s Choice in 2013).
His latest book, “Muriel’s Monster” is the story of a young girl’s journey of self-discovery as she battles with illness. A teenager with everything before her, and surrounded by loving family and friends, Muriel must explore the inner depths of her being to learn how to deal with the traumas facing her.