Lots of people like to read. They read newspapers, fashion magazines, video game manuals, and self-help books. Some will read fiction, and a smaller group reaches for genre fiction. There is a big difference, however, between how the average Jane reads and how someone destined to be an author chooses their stories. A pre-destined author doesn’t just haul a few books in a bag when they go on vacation or suddenly pick up reading as a hobby when they lose interest in television. No, a person born to be an author knows from an early age that stories are one of the best things on this Earth. They were the kid who found themselves spending Saturdays at the public library, exhausting the shelves of its inventory, then starting over again. They have memories of chastisements received in school for reading during class time, or for daydreaming about that new book during P.E. Someone born to be an author can recall in an instant the scent of a book’s pages.
I am only beginning my writer’s journey, but it feels like something I’ve prepared for my entire life. Although I have friends who like to read, the writers are not only the most passionate about their favorite stories, but they can always vividly articulate what their favorite authors mean to them. They can recall the details of the settings, the author’s particular use of language, and even where they were sitting the first time they read a favorite scene.
There is something special about the feeling we get when we melt into the world of another’s imagination. After a marathon of critiquing two of my writer friends’ work, I soon discovered that their worlds were swirling in my head. This made me think of the most essential goal of an author—to successfully transplant their created world into the imaginations of their readers. Grabbing and maintaining their interest is certainly essential, but the ultimate goal is to stay with them long after the book is finished. What is it exactly that these authors have mastered? What skills can both new and seasoned writers learn to exemplify?
There are many authors with a special place on my bookshelf, but there are only two that are truly favored. C.S. Lewis and Jeffrey Overstreet created characters and worlds that remain clearly in my imagination almost as strong as the day I read about them. From C.S. Lewis’ Magician’s Nephew, I can still see the narrow attic walkway that Polly and Digory traveled. In Jeffrey Overstreet’s Cyndere’s Midnight, I can still feel the anguish I felt for Cyndere when her best friend and husband was killed and she was left to grieve in a world that couldn’t keep up with her advanced nature.
Both authors have touched my spirit and mind in different ways. Lewis has a way of taking the reader on a magical journey that is as palpable as it is fanciful. His settings are the most grounding for me. He must have been familiar with even the scents of his world as he wrote. Overstreet creates characters that are so well-rounded, you become immersed in their struggles and care about their happiness from the very beginning. The worlds these authors create contain rich culture, diverse people, and stories that stay in the reader’s heart for years to come.
What is it about your favorite author that has you returning again and again? What is it about him/her that is different, even from other authors you admire? As a writer, this is so important because it tells us about who we are and may be a literary roadmap to who we are going to become not only as a story teller, but as a person.