I’m amazed by the writers that I enjoy reading. The ones I prefer are adept at character-driven, literary fiction. I don’t read genre fiction any longer. Although James Patterson, Harlan Coban and Michael Connelly have intriguing plots with more twists than a bread tie, I find that the bread within is plain white. Wonder bread. The stuff of PB and J. Nothing wrong with Wonder bread, mind you. Just sometimes like something a little more substantial. Healthy. Unique. Chewy.
But to read a fantastic author, although an acquired taste, is downright delectable. Cormac McCarthy (The Road is the best book I have ever read). JD Salinger. Ernest Hemingway. F Scott Fitzgerald (I’m reading The Great Gatsby right now). Oh, the grainy rye of these talented writers.
I find the thing that most separates these literary greats from some of the more prolific writers of plot-driven fiction is their uncanny ability to communicate the most subtle of feelings with actions, not words. The writers I favor -- and not even all literary authors write this way -- give a reader a sense of character from action and dialogue. They don’t “tell” us that old Bessie is angry as a hornet. They “show” us old Bessie, wringing out the wet laundry on the scrub board. We don’t need them to tell us the laundry is the philandering husband’s neck. We get it. Literary fiction from world-class writers allows us, the readers, to figure out the characters, their thoughts and their motivations -- Triscuits of word puzzles, true treats for the hungry reader.
I have learned so much from reading these authors. Every time I write -- and having completed one short story for Glimmer Train and having four others in various states of creation in my Scrivener “chop shop”, I am now writing daily -- I revise my words to communicate meaning through action. Each and every time I write “she thought”, or “he wondered”, I stop myself. I get back to my mentors, the writers I emulate. And I rewrite the passage with an action rather than a thought. A telling piece of dialogue rather than a mental note.
Many thanks to the best teachers I could ever hope for: the writers I love.