The Title Past
I promised y'all
something different this month, so this month we're going to talk
about why writers write and why they write what they do. To begin
with, let's get the easy ones out of the way. Writers, some writers,
write for fame and riches. That seems to be pretty self-explanatory.
However, the majority of writers write for many other reasons. Some
writers have a message, a strong belief in something, that they want
to communicate to others. Some writers just like to tell stories.
And, then there's writers like me, who need a creative outlet, and
who can not function without it. In other words, I can not not write.
Call it the beckoning of the creative muses, call it obsessive/compulsive
behavior, call it whatever you want, the bottom line is I can not
not write. The stories, the ideas, the plots, the characters have
to be released. However, it's the words that offer the most challenge,
and are sometimes the reason why writers write what they do.
It's often been said
that the English language is one of the hardest languages to learn.
It is convoluted, complicated, and confusing to English as a Second
Language (ESL) students. It is also one of the most rewarding and
challenging aspects of being a writer. There is always a better word,
a better phrase, a better way to structure a sentence and there-in
lies the challenge. It is a challenge that most writers willingly
undertake. However, there-in also lies the problem and the reason
why writers write what they do.
Recently, one of my
daughters began reading Mercedes Lackey's newest book in the Chronicles
of Valdemar series. She called me up one night and said, "Mom,
I just can't get into this book. She's (the author) changed her writing
style or something, and it just doesn't read the same as her other
Her comment clearly
points out a trend, or a habit, or a problem, (what you call it depends
mostly on your point of view), that established writers face once
they have overcome the other challenges of getting published and establishing
a following of readers. There are no more challenges left except for
the use of words, or style, if you prefer.
Writers are just like
anyone else, they can and do get bored with their work. They've already
learned all the basics of writing, already proven their skill at mastering
the techniques of story-telling, dialogue, character development,
and plot structuring. So what's left to learn and to master? The English
language, and fortunately, for most writers, the English language
offers an unending supply of fresh new challenges to tackle.
It kind of works like
this: you are a writer. You've sold half a dozen or so books with
a similar style. They've sold well and now you are preparing to write
a new book. You think about it, a lot. Then you realize that you just
don't want to write it the same old way. You're bored because you've
already mastered the basic techniques and skills. You want a new challenge,
something different, something better. So, you start changing your
style. You start changing the way you use the English language. You
add more metaphors, more descriptive passages, and your word choices
become a little more sophisticated. What you end up with is not only
a change of style but a change of voice.
Voice is the way a
writer's words express what the writer wants to say. Almost every
successful writer has a clear, distinctive voice. Have you ever heard
or read a passage from a book and thought to yourself, "Jeeze,
I bet that was written by so-and-so. It sounds just like their work."
When that happens you have identified the writer by their voice.
But, here-in, lies
the problem. As a writer, you can just stick to one style, one voice,
and never change it, and thus keep the loyalty of your long-time fans.
(Dean Koontz is a good example of this. I can open one of his latest
books, read the first chapter, and know exactly how it is going to
end. I quit reading his works, years ago, for this very reason.) Or,
you can change your style or voice, and risk losing your existing
following. Or, you might gain new followers and not lose the old ones.
A feat Stephen King has so successfully accomplished.
On the other hand,
writers have a third choice, and that is to branch out into new genres.
One of my favorite authors is Anne McCaffrey. She has established
herself as a writer in the fields of Science Fiction and Fantasy,
and sometimes even blends the two genres. However, she did not change
her voice or style, and I can almost always spot her work simply from
the way she uses the English language.
As for myself, after
writing six novels, I also wanted a new challenge so I undertook to
write my first non-fiction book. I am pleased with the results, now
I just have to wait and see if the publishers will be as accepting
of my first venture into this new field.
There you have it. The reasons why writers write and they reasons why writers write what they do. I hope it gives you a basic understanding why some of your favorite authors may suddenly change their style or voice, and I hope that you will have patience with them as they undergo this learning and changing process. Writers, after all, are just plain ole' folks, trying to make a living and trying to keep their work as interesting as possible.
Smiles and blessings, Nancy Marie