Authors Were My Best Teachers

The idea for this post was stolen from the Notebook Sisters by yours truly. While I’ve certainly learned a great deal about writing from writing my own stories, I’ve learned many more things by reading the stories of others. I’ve learned what I love and hate, what to emulate and what not to do. So here’s a big thank-you to all the authors on this list (and the few that I’ve probably forgotten), whether you’re alive or deceased, young or old, popular or obscure. All of you are awesome because in addition to amusing me for hours, you have been better teachers than anyone could ever ask for.

Roald Dahl taught me that children’s books can be dark.

Gail Carson Levine taught me how to make very old stories like new.

Agatha Christie taught me never to assume anything about a character, even one of my own.

J.K. Rowling taught me that the greatest stories don’t give you the right answers until the very end.

Libba Bray taught me about satire.

Scott Westerfeld taught me to use my imagination and write crazy stories about alternative history.

Bill Bryson taught me that nonfiction can make you laugh until your sides hurt.

Margaret Peterson Haddix taught me that ideas are the most important part of science fiction.

Lois Lowry taught me to choose every word with care.

Nevillegirl the Reading Fool 002Richard Peck taught me that history can be funny.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor taught me that good animal stories don’t have to feature talking animals.

J.R.R. Tolkien taught me that good writing sometimes takes a while to get going.

Rick Riordan taught me not to repeat good ideas too often (or preferably at all) because readers get tired of the same old thing.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle taught me how to create suspense.

George R.R. Martin taught me that no one character has all the facts and that unreliable narrators better engage the reader because now it’s up to them to find the truth.

Sue Limb taught me that in humor, anything goes.

C.S. Lewis taught me that all the books in a series need not feature the same characters.

Jerry Spinelli taught me to use ordinary kids as my characters.

Joy Hakim taught me how to write nonfiction as if it were a story.

Christopher Paul Curtis taught me that history is full of great stories.

Laura Ingalls Wilder taught me to write about what I consider ordinary life because it’s not familiar to everyone and as such makes for good stories.

Oscar Wilde taught me about subtle humor.

Lev AC Rosen taught me how to handle subplots.

William Shakespeare taught me how to pace my stories.

Suzanne Collins taught me that YA books can be social commentary.

Emily M. Danforth taught me that using precisely the right amount of description will nevillegirl-amid-booksbring the setting to life for the readers without boring them.

Garth Nix taught me to write about magic more often in my fantasy stories.

An Na taught me that emotion is key.

Peter Abrahams taught me how to write realistic dialogue.

Terry Prachett taught me that though my ideas may be strange, I should write them down anyway.

Maggie Stiefvater taught me that urban fantasy is just as amazing as high fantasy.

Kirsten Miller taught me to take my characters on adventures.

Eoin Colfer taught me to combine genres – say, fantasy and science fiction.

Cornelia Funke taught me that reading good writing feels like a dream.

Ellen Raskin taught me to mislead the readers by giving all the facts but overemphasizing some.

Andrew Clements taught me that children are capable of handling complex plots.

Anthony Horowitz taught me that it is OK to put even young characters through many horrible experiences.

Michael Crichton taught me to do my research when writing science fiction.

Alright, I have to stop now. This is addictive. What have your favorite authors taught you? Did any of my favorites teach you what they taught me?

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9 Responses to Authors Were My Best Teachers

  1. Tori says:

    Eva Ibbotson taught me not only books with sequels are great books. I hope that counts.

    • nevillegirl says:

      That definitely counts, and I agree. Sequels are fun, but sometimes it’s nice when the story doesn’t go on and on.

      • Tori says:

        Yes, it takes a lot of skill to develope a plot fast enough so it fits in one book, yet still not make the whole story feel rushed. (I’m quoting the Head Phil on this one) Eva did a great job on that.

  2. Thomas says:

    Love all of these lessons, what a wide variety of authors! There are way too many for me – I could probably publish a post about it, like you – but one random one I thought of was for Maggie Stiefvater. She went to a small university in my state (Mary Washington) and majored in history, but with dedication and practice she became a great author. Shows how you don’t have to engage in fancy workshops or anything like that to write well. Once again, lovely post!

  3. Boquinha says:

    Yes, but what did Christopher Paolini teach you? I don’t see him on the list . . . 😛

    Great post and great idea.

  4. I loved this! 😀 I should definitely attempt to do this post sometime, but not today because it’d take me way too long and I don’t have much time left on the computer.

    I love the one about Rick Riordan. 😉 I have the same issue with him. He definitely needs to move on from the whole mythology thing. Seriously.

    • nevillegirl says:

      Thank you!
      Someday, I should read Riordan’s mystery series for adults. He wrote them before PJO and apparently they did quite well, but I want to see for myself. I want to see if he can write anything besides mythology well.

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