Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"This is really bugging me, which shouldn't, considering how good these guys are..."

There is much talk in creative writing circles about finding one's own voice; but there's a fine line between a unique "personal dialect,'' if you will, and a distracting reliance on habits of pat (and pet) phraseology.
     I have just been reading (side by side — I tend to do that: dip into a mouthful of one, then a gulp of the other) Don DeLillo's latest, The Angel Esmerelda (read a related post here...), a collection of short stories that span almost thirty-five years of his career, and Richard Ford's new novel Canada (go here...).
     Both works are by highly acclaimed masters of modern fiction, but reading them in tandem highlights these writers' stylistic quirks. Granted, that's why we read their books (plot is not preeminent among their gifts): for their insights about the human condition, their unique eyes and ears that inform us the way great painters transform mundane objects and scenes into paradigms of universal truth — all done with what seems to be slight-of-hand, magic. But by jumping back and forth between these two word conjurors the techniques they use to work this magic become more apparent.
     Try it yourself. Take any two of your favorite authors and read them in digestible chunks back-to-back. It 's a wonderful way to hone your sense of how scenes are set and characters are illuminated; but most of all, how tone and voice are fashioned into a distinct, stylistic fingerprint.
     Now, if only Don Delilo could avoid the word "this" and Richard Ford constructed fewer sentences that ended with a relative clause beginning with "which."
— Michael Hale

Get books by these authors here...

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