Let Me Count the Ways…

People are always asking me, “Rebecca, what do you do when you’re bored?”  And I answer by showing them this picture:

And then I usually start another blog post.

People also like to ask me who my favorite author is, and I can never answer.  The reason is that I have several favorite authors, and I like them all for different reasons.  So my next few posts are going to be dedicated to my favorite authors and why I love them.  There will be no particular order to the list, because I do really love these authors equally.  The numbering just helps me to organize things…and spend a needless amount of time drawing pictures.  Without further ado, let’s get to it!

Don’t try to read the words in the number.  You will hurt your eyes.  I basically made them up of names, places, and other significant nouns from the books/authors I am honoring.  In this case, it’s The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.  And yes, I am talking about one series, though Mr. Butcher has written other books.  The Dresden Files just happens to be my absolute favorite example of his work.  And here’s why:

Jim Butcher’s writing flows in ways that I’ve never seen before.  That’s not to say that other authors’ writing doesn’t flow.  It’s just that Jim Butcher’s has a very specific kind of flow that really gets under my skin and draws me in.  His main character, Harry Dresden, is the narrator, and I love Harry.  He captures you from the get go.  The narrative voice in these books is so distinct, it is really, really hard to remember that Harry is a fictional character.  He is sarcastic and witty, he is lovable, and he is fearsome when he has to be.  I’ve talked about these books before, and I’ve cartooned these books before, and I’ve given examples from these books before, so I really shouldn’t have to go into it too much.  One thing I haven’t talked about is the plot.  Butcher’s got a mind for it like no other.  The series is like a rollercoaster – it takes you for a crazy ride and you just have to hang on.  Add the plot into the mix, and suddenly you’re on that rollercoaster blindfolded, so you can’t see what twists and turns are ahead of you.  And Butcher is the one calling the shots.  It really is a thrilling ride, and I love every minute of it.

Tamora Pierce has so many things going for her.  I could talk all day about her amazing stories, her lovable characters, and her captivating narratives.  Don’t even get me started on her awesomely strong female characters who don’t take crap from anybody.  Not men, not royalty, and definitely not their snarky talking cat (but really, yes, the cat is probably right and they’ll realize that sooner or later and then they have to admit to it which is really frustrating because the damn cat gets so smug when you admit he’s right about something).

Nope.  Not going to talk about any of that.  Because I want to dedicate this post to the one thing that constantly amazes me about her.  Remember when I talked about the freedom of creating your own world?  Interestingly enough, I talked about it in the same post as I talked about The Dresden Files, linked above.  I might have mentioned my motto: Writing is the easiest, safest way to play God.  I stand by that.  If you create a world that is 93% active volcanoes, 4% rabid beavers, and 3% terrified people, then no one is getting hurt.  No one real anyway.  So it’s easy and it’s safe.  Comparatively.  But that easiness needs to be taken with a grain of salt, I think.  See, it’s really easy to write, “There once was a place where 900 people died every day from rabid beaver attacks alone.”  And it is jut as easy to delete that sentence, thus ending that world.  Here’s the grain of salt:  Compared to actually creating a physical planet that is populated by real people with real things, creating a literary world is quite easy.  That being said, if you want to do the literary world-creating right, then it is still a grueling, difficult process.  To make a real, believable, living, breathing world…well, let’s make a list of all the things you’d need.  (I’m going to try to go from big to small here)

  • Geography – Continents, oceans, etc.
  • Topography – mountain ranges, rivers, forests, deserts, etc.
  • Setting – Is this a fantasy world where flush toilets don’t exist and ogres carry princesses away from their castles?  Or is this a post-apocalyptic world where if you want food, you have to fight a radioactive chimpanzee for it using a spear you’ve fashioned out of cat bones and a tire iron?
  • Climate – Is it hot?  Humid?  Rainy?  Snowy?  How does that affect the resources that your characters have available to them?
  • Cities, states, countries, districts
  • Names – Everything needs a name.  Rivers need names, as do countries, states, cities, people, and any number of other things.
  • Politics – Monarchy, democracy, dictatorship, etc.  Not only that, but you need to decide which countries have what governments, what those governments are like, who’s feeling oppressed, who’s got a pretty good deal.  It goes on and on.  Politics are the hardest thing for me because I was never very good at grasping poly-sci.
  • People – Now you need to fill your world.  Figure out who’s ruling, who’s at war, who your main character(s) is/are.  This list goes on and on, so I’m just gonna leave it at that.
This is already making my brain hurt, and I don’t think this even comes close to being a comprehensive list.  But let’s move on to my point in talking about all this: Tamora Pierce does it.  And she does it in a way that leaves me in awe, because it all feels so real.  She covers every base, and some that you didn’t even think existed…which kind of screws up the baseball metaphor.  I often wonder how she keeps this entire world in her head and still remembers how to eat.  I mean, I have to assume that she keeps notes on these things so it’s not all stored in her brain, but still!  Respect.  That’s what I have for her.  Because on top of the amazing stories that are all interwoven so perfectly, and all those other things I said I could talk about but won’t for the sake of space, she has also created a very real world.  And she keeps track of it.  My hat goes off to her for that.
Real quick, I want to talk about why I’m writing about these things.  It’s because I think it’s important to be aware of why you like someone else’s work.  Because if you know why you like it, then you know what to emulate and what goal to strive towards with your own work.  Obviously I’m not advocating blatant plagiarism or ripping off famous authors or anything like that, but listing things like this does help to create a nice set of guidelines.  And it’s different for every person, so you should definitely think about who you like best and why.  When you’ve got the time.  Just a suggestion.  Stay tuned for more blatant sucking-up!
Word of the Day: Reverence (n) – a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe.
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4 Comments

Filed under books, Humor, writing

4 responses to “Let Me Count the Ways…

  1. People really shouldn’t look at that first picture after consuming copious amounts of vodka…

    • I didn’t think reading blogs typically followed the consumption of copious amounts of vodka, but thank you for your insight. I’ll consider putting a disclaimer on the site. More importantly, I approve of the use of “copious” in your comment.

  2. LOVE Jim Butcher. The Dresden Files is one of my favorite series. And I like what he did with the last one, though I was totally expecting to hate it.

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