Saturday, February 7, 2015

8 Books that Inspired My Writing

photo credit: <a href="">Red graphite pencils leaning on stack of thick books</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

1. The Holy Bible: New American Standard. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1977. Print.                 The Bible is God’s Word and it's accessible to all. It is a guide to living and includes everything from the meaning of love and understanding truth to finding freedom from slavery, and acquiring eternal salvation and peace through forms of poetry and prose. The Bible provides a complex narrative of literary devices: parallelisms, plot points, metaphor, parables, similes, foreshadowing, dialogue, repetition and symbolism, all which are applicable to  literary writing and further promote our creative techniques.The Bible has become the cornerstone of my writing by offering a variety of language styles and points-of-view. It is the standard by which all mediums of my writing have been realized as it provides paradigms of poetry, narrative, and lyrics. Containing many antagonists and protagonists, this book has helped me to create, more passionately, my own characters  and incorporate more effectively the many thematic elements dealt with in the Bible such as family relationships, adversity, good and evil, people's nature, life, death, love, and hope.

2. Koontz, Dean. Intensity. New York: Ballantine Pub, 1995. Print.                                                Koontz is a #1 bestseller who has published nearly 100 (check) novels, most of them thrillers.               Intensity follows a young woman, Chyna, who uses survival techniques from her volatile childhood to hide from a cold-blooded villain, Vess, who slaughters her best friend, Laura, and Laura’s family. With much courage, she pursues the killer and finds that he is holding a teenage girl in his basement. Vess eventually discovers that he’s being pursued, confronts Chyna, and handcuffs her to his table, unsure and surprised by her seeming bravery to follow him. Through much endurance, faith in God, and a love for a stranger (the girl, Ariel), Koontz uses Chyna to teach us about true love, protection from evil through faith in God, and the destruction of evil as good prevails.                                                                Koontz has set for me the paradigm for fictional creative writing. His prose is unique in style and narrative, and his characters are well-developed, likeable, relatable, and convincing. The stories are linguistically rich and compelling and reveal aspects of evil while prevailing over it with truth and goodness. Though he writes fiction, he incorporates truth, victory over evil, and love based on his faith in God. I strive to emulate some of his thematic elements because they coincide with my own faith. I also seek to create characters and storylines that hold my readers’ attention like the ones Koontz creates; through vivid description, credible language, and intriguing characters, he gives us hope and triumph over evil. Like Koontz, I strive to depict both good and evil and how, through faith and the pursuit of truth, we find hope, peace, and love. He has also taught me how to intensify tension and conflict in my stories.

3. Pike, Christopher. Remember Me. New York: Pocket Books, 1989. Print.                                    Remember Me is about Shari, a teenage girl, who wonders why her family is ignoring her. Before long, she learns that she is dead and that the papers have ruled her death a suicide. Determined to expose her killer, she follows her friends around in an attempt to uncover the truth. Pike’s story seeks to entertain his audience by offering a normal girl facing a supernatural experience. Everyone can relate to the supernatural aspect that he comments on as we all go through spiritual events that shape who we are. Pike offers a way for readers to enjoy an unusual journey with a teenager, an escape into the unknown.   Pike’s story has been an inspiration to me because he crafts plot lines that are unique and engaging. His linguistic style is simple but precise as he draws characters who battle with the same insecurities we do. His murder mystery is geared toward young adults, but I still continue to read this as well as his other books, because they offer me ways to hook the audience. His narrative style is exciting, fast-paced and rich in friendship dynamic; I aim to offer my readers a similar experience in terms of appealing storylines and characters.

4. King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000. Print.     King offers us a personal anecdote about his own tribulations with writing before becoming a bestseller. Through humor and painful truths, he makes himself vulnerable in order to cast an empathetic ear to our own plight with creative writing. He also provides a practical run-through of the necessary tools of the trade, what he, in fact, calls a “toolbox” while also looking at those stumbling blocks that inhibit our work’s progress and how to overcome the “block”.  King’s book proves invaluable to those interested in the craft of creative writing. The advice comes from a long-time success who has faced rejection and then found a way to overcome it. The information is useful and reliable because it is first-hand. His knowledge is extensive and the reader has the privilege to improve their craft of writing based on King’s pertinent advice.  Though I do not actually read King’s novels, his non-fiction book has made a huge impact on me. I first read it when I began the MFA in CW program, and since then I have used it as a reference as I go about penning my own stories. He says with regards to writing, that we can approach it with dread, tension, or despair, but whatever the case, to “Come to it any way but lightly” (106). Writing, I agree, must be taken seriously because we are imparting a our knowledge through words and creating a lasting impression on others. Then he states, “If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?” (152). Amen.

5.Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters. NY: HarperCollins, 2001. Print.

Lewis explores the chasm between good and evil, and surprises us by unfolding the unexpected ways in which evil operates. A fictional book that deals with reality, this work exposes the reality of evil through the dialogue and banter between a demon and his nephew. This piece of writing is comparable to Koontz and the Bible in that it highlights the very real influence of evil and its true nature. Evil lurks in places we are comfortable, in the daylight, at the office, not just in the dark. A confessed Christian, Lewis uses spiritual wisdom to warn us about recognizing truth from lies, uses humor  to help lighten the context, and addresses the moralities and idea of faith that we all must answer to. Lewis’s work has helped me to find new ways in which to explore the many facets of evil while bringing my reader to an understanding about God and faith and what it means to have wisdom. Through this piece, I have been able to better create my own stories and more effectively engage the reader through a very real and credible element given to my writing.

6. Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man.  NY: Vintage Books, 1982. Print.                                                        Invisible Man uses the first person point-of-view of a nameless narrator who embarks on his journey of adulthood with much optimism only to find true discomfiture at the very obvious racist, self-centered nature of people and the quick realization that he is never truly seen. Ellison’s novel is truly enlightening because it explores biases which, in one shape or another, we all face at one point in our lives. It deals with those who don’t have time for the narrator, much less care about him, refusing to “see” him for who he is. Simultaneously, the narrator himself is unable to understand himself. This is a novel that asks us to do our own soul-searching as it addresses the realities of discrimination in the workplace, the detachment of society and the inability to fit in with anybody, to be understood. The themes inherent in the novel are familiar and ones in which I intend to continue exploring in my own stories. 

7. Hugo, Victor. Les Miserables. NY: Signet Classics, 1987. Print.                                                       This novel explores the story of Jean Valjean, an ex-criminal, who finds a new way of life when a priest forgives him for stealing from him, and then holds him accountable to change into a better man. Hugo’s goal is to shed light on the common themes of mankind: faith, redemption, hope and spiritual change. His unabridged edition deeply contemplates the moral deficiencies of man while holding fast to the possibility and actuality of spiritual transformation. These issues are evident in all of our lives and they are problems that we must all submit to and determine our course of action. This novel has caused me to look deeper into my own thoughts as I embark on creative pieces. Life is profound and meaningful and Hugo inspires me to seek these truths to their very roots.

8.Blake, Lily.  House at The End of The Street. NY: Hachette Book Group, 2012. Print
This book contains a plot heavy-laden with unexpected twists. Mystery and suspense are at its core, which is what makes this novel so spell-binding. The characters are complex, the storyline is intricately sewn together, and I found myself drawn into the shadows of this complicated and intriguing world. Blake has a way of crafting characters through simple language but in a way that has you holding onto the armrest and digging your fingernails into it as you turn the pages.

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