Friday Favorites 8/20/2010

There is nothing like trying to write fiction to make you appreciate your favorite authors. When I was earning a certificate in Creative Writing from Cal State Fullerton some years ago, I lamented that I wanted to write like Alice Hoffmann but ended up sounding more like Elmore Leonard.   Maybe that happened in part because my teacher was  a mystery writer but it was also because my voice … once I found it … tended more toward the snide than the elegant.   And, of course, how many writers have the talent to write like either of them?

Alice Hoffman writes plainly romantic novels with quirky characters and plots touched with the supernatural in beautiful but accessible prose.   There is so little pretense to her writing that is easy to find yourself swept away by her stories and miss its elegance.  Then you reach a paragraph of such literary beauty that chills run up your spine and you want to go back and read the last fifty pages to see what you’ve missed.  But you can’t because her plots are so compelling.   As a result, I keep her novels around so I can just go back and enjoy her use of the language.  What I found out trying to write fiction is how easy it is to have romantic lapse into corny, quirky become unbelievable and supernatural become New Age cliche.  Yet with Hoffmann’s novels, I feel like I’m reading about real people in real places, whether it’s sisters from a family with witch-like powers dealing with the dangers of love … and a dead boyfriend buried in the yard …  in Massachusetts (Practical Magic) or lovers drawn together by the effects of being struck by lightning in New Jersey (The  Ice Queen).  In my writing classes, my teacher continually stressed the importance of opening sentences and paragraphs … Alice Hoffmann excels at both.  Try this, the opening sentence from Second Nature, in which a woman rescues a man raised by wolves from a psychiatric ward and, as she tries to teach him to be more human, finds herself drawn to the very wildness she’s trying to eliminate.   By April most people had already forgotten about him, except for some of the nurses on the floor, who crossed themselves when they walked past his room.  How could you not read on?

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3 Comments on “Friday Favorites 8/20/2010”

  1. granny1947 Says:

    Thank you BUD…I have made a note of her name and will definitely look for one of her books.

  2. Oscar Says:

    I like Elmore Leonard better!

  3. oldereyes Says:

    Oh, he’s great, too. Have you ever read any Carl Hiassen? Absolutely crazy plots and very funny mysteries.

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