Friday, February 8, 2008

A Mouse's Influence

Recently I've started rereading one of my favorite book series from my early teens. And I've been surprised to realize how much they'ved affected my writing over the years.

Surprised, because I tend to think that it's the literary giants like Tolkien and Lewis that have had the most effect on my writing style.

But really, that's not true. Almost everything that I've read in depth has affected my writing at some level. And while now my (living) literary role models are writers like the Thoenes, Liz Curtis Higgs and Regina Doman, the development of my skills was probably considerably helped by the works of Brian Jacques.

First of all, background for those of you who are unfamiliar with his works. The Redwall series are based around a large, redstone Abbey in the middle of a large forest called Mossflower. The Abbey is populated by all kinds of small woodland creatures native to the British Isles. Mice, Otters, Hares, Squirrels, Hedgeholes, Moles and the like. In every book there is a hero (who usually becomes the warrior or the abbot/abbess of the abbey) who must go on a quest, usually following some sort of riddle to reach their end. There is also some danger to the abbey, usually in the form of a "vermin" villian such as a rat, stoat, weasel, ferret, wildcat or pine martin.

Though the animals live in an Abbey, they are not "religious" the only thing close to any form of a religion is the guiding spirit of the Abbey's founder, Martin the Warrior, who often appears in dreams to give guidence to the Abbey creatures. However, Christian morality is upheld throughout the books. Family, honor, trust, honesty, bravery, faithfulness and respect are all held in highest esteem. Considering that these are animals in a differant (fantasy) world, I don't think there is any problem with this. (Most non-Christains would view the Narnian books as exactly the same thing. In fact, even though Jacques has stated that he tries to keep the books religiously neutral, there are definetly very Christain seeming scenarios in several places.)

Anyhow...so what exactly did I learn from the writing style of Brian Jacques?

#1. Description.
Jacques originally wrote the first Redwall book for young friends of his at a school for the blind. This means that he has wonderful descriptions- especially of all the food! I know that I am not the only reader to find themselves scrounging in the kitchen after a particularily delicious sounding feast at the Abbey.

#2. A Love of Riddles
One of my favorite Redwall books is Pearls of Lutra which probably contains more riddles than any other two combined. And it was definetely the riddles that made the book so endearing to me. I loved trying to match my wits against the characters in hopes of figuring out the answers before they did. Though you probably won't find too many riddles in my writing yet, the idea of mystery within my books has probably been influenced by this.

#3. Pacing and Suspense
One thing that Jacques is a master of is knowing the exact place in his narrative break away from the action. It's almost infuriating at times, and yet this makes it nearly impossible to put the book down. I definetely learned about constructing good cliff-hangers from him. (No, it WASN'T from that annoying segment on "Between the Lions" where my sister learned about cliffhangers...)

#4. A love of Action and Adventure
I certainly wouldn't say that it was only Redwall that contributed to this. It's something that I've developed in my writing for a long time, because I know it's needed to balance the natural tendancies of females to avoid conflict and list names of children and the house decorations. A true classic naturally appeals to both genders, but in order for it to do so, it has to contain elements that both genders enjoy. (For an instance- in Pride and Prejudice we girls enjoy the romance, whereas many male readers/viewers enjoy the comedy.) However I think this balanced approach was developed in my through what I read- and though I've read a lot of other books that would appeal to both (or even more of a male) audiences, I think Redwall probably played pretty well into this.

Because the fact is that I started my latest book, Thistles in a Haze, to be more of a mystery/quest and it ended up being waaaaay too much like an action/adventure novel, leading to far too many edit notes from my more espionage-saavy father.

At any rate, I thought this was an interesting thought to explore. And I intend to do more thinking about which authors have most influenced my work. I'm sure there will be more posts soon on this subject...

So, reader, what authors have most influenced your writing, or the way you view other works of literature, and why do you think they affected you in that way?

6 comments:

SignaVeritae said...

Yeah, Redwall seems pretty good, but I think the author uses to many abbreviations...kind of hard to read...I only ever read the long patrol though. I do have a friend who read all of them.

Elenatintil said...

Oh, you should really read more of them! I think you'd really enjoy them.

Yes, the abbreviations- (which are only for accents, btw) are a bit tricky until you get used to them. Then you start talking in the accents yourself! (Everything except mole...that is...)

BTW- Welcome, SignaVeritae! Thanks for posting!

Isaac Brist said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Isaac Brist said...

some of the authors that have have influenced my writing are: Brian Jacques, Ed Dunlap, who wrote the Terrestria chronicles, Brian Davis, who wrote the Dragons In Our Midst books, and Ted Decker.

These authors have written such page-turning books, that they make me want to write a book like theirs!

Elenatintil said...

Hey Isaac! I love how you're such an avid reader. (But you already know that) Now that these writers have inspired you to read exciting books, you should take a look at some "Classics." In fact, I think I'll write one of my upcoming posts about what books aspiring authors should read...

SignaVeritae said...

Well, I borrowed, Redwall, Mattimeo, Mossflower, and Slamandastron from the library, and read them all. They were very good, and I have two more on hold.