(Reed’s playlist for this occasion: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door Compilation, can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAqD_K-dzNk and shoutouts to Luigi for the upload and Rachel for the suggestion)
There’s a maxim of profession when you’re getting started as a writer. “Copy the authors you want emulate.” A few of our favorite authors have even admitted to actually copying chunks of text from their favorite works before starting their own writing for the day. It’s a great way to analyze precisely what makes their writing so successful, and transferring those strategies into your own work later on (for an example, see my previous post about “Why Writing Is Like Wine”).
So here I want to drop a quick list of the books I’d like to emulate (note that these aren’t exactly my favorite books, but many of them make both lists).
Artemis Fowl: Without a doubt one of my favorite series ever written. But why is it so attractive to me as a reader? The characters, for one thing. Eoin Colfer writes completely memorable, almost-but-not-quite stereotypical characters who betray us all by having a surprising amount of depth beneath their whimsical surfaces. The plots of his novels are simple, easy to follow at all ages, and filled with a riotous humor stemming directly from those incredible interactions.
The Phantom Tollbooth: I’ve dreamed for ages of writing a novelette similar to this, but with a basis in neuroscience (it makes sense in my head). Why? The sheer impossibility of the world. The whole thing reads like a Dali painting, with situations and characters that feel somehow more real in their surrealism than most people actually are. That feeling of paradox provides a powerful frame story through which an author can allude to the paradoxical nature of mankind (another great example of this is in The Little Prince).
Moving away from kid’s books, The Name of the Wind is a great book to emulate if you’re looking at prose. Patrick Rothfuss, a new master of fantasy, spends years crafting each of his works, moving through mountains of editing like it’s nothing. His works are so polished at the end you can hardly find anything wrong with them – at least in terms of prose. (I’ve had some very serious conversations with a friend of mine about male gaze in fantasy, so yeah.)
Harry Potter. (Don’t pretend like you didn’t know this was coming.) Why is Harry Potter so successful? To me it’s two things – the innovative world, which is easily covered by a great many other works, and the coming-of-age themes, which are not. The HP series to me is the best I know at growing with its readers. It starts with some childish fantastical tales with an abundance of levity and only, as the MPAA might put it, “minor peril”, and ends with this gritty realization about the nature of mortality and our places in the world. The good becomes bad, the bad become (mildly) tolerable, and Nevil is a BAMF. The black-and-white nature of the early books slowly corrodes over the course of the series, to be replaced with an uncomfortable number of ethically gray situations. Just like being a young adult.
Finally (and I could choose much, much more), The Magicians series is pretty incredible in terms of locution and tone. A heavy sense of pessimism and darkness saturates the entirety of the trilogy, which rarely if ever lifts in moments of joy or interest. The dark spin on C.S. Lewis really makes for a story that feels so wrapped up in its own angsty head, you can hardly bear it (but you do because of the beautiful language and engaging, endlessly faulty characters).
These are the books I’d like to emulate. What are yours? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading.