Today, I’m joined by YA and MG writer Rain Laaman. Rain loves the fantastical. Even when she attempts to set her stories on our world, they end up with trolls or magic in them. I can relate. My fingers always itch to add a little bit of magic in a mundane tale. In this lovely guest post, Rain makes a compelling case for why we should all read (and re-read) the classics. I don’t know about you, but I’m picking up my copy of 1984 right now.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the feeling that a lot of writers aren’t reading classic literature these days. “Oh, I read that stuff in high school,” you might say. “A Tale of Two Cities, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, yep. I’ve got the old guys covered.”
I used to think that every writer would naturally read and love the classics, but alas, I’m not sure if that is the case. After all, sometimes we need a heavy shovel to dig through the language of the 17th, 18th, 19th, and even 20th centuries. After all, we want to keep up with our genres and what’s going in on our own markets. (That is also a worthy ambition, by the way.)
But, believe me, immersing yourself in these treasures is so worth it. Let’s take a gander at some quotes from my favorite stories. You’ll see why they are amazing and why we writers should read them.
From For Whom the Bell Tolls: “He was waiting until the officer reached the sunlit place where the first trees of the pine forest joined the green slope of the meadow. He could feel his heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest.” Just look at that diction! Ever feel that your writing is too wordy? Read three or four of Hemingway’s books and you’ll feel ashamed to ever use an adjective or adverb again.
If you write about crumbling societies, 1984 by George Orwell is a must read. This story is the golden crown of dystopian. Here is a quote: “The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed…the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.”
In Jane Eyre we get right into Jane’s clever, pure, spirited mind: “He is not to them what he is to me…he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine…I understand the language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him….I must, then, repeat continually that we are for ever sundered: – and yet, while I breathe and think I must love him.” Oh, Charlotte Brontë. The hero and heroine of her story are not fairytale gorgeous. In fact they were quite plain. But they were attracted to each other through kindred spirits. That’s romance for you.
Those are only a tiny sampling of the wonders available to you. If you’ve already read all the famous works of literature, try some of the more obscure novels. Go, read, conquer, my friends.