OLD SCHOOL ANTICS
Have you been accused of that lately? Writing old school concepts or using old school style? The first time I heard that (directed at someone else) I bristled. The reading I’d just listened to—from the writings of a fellow student—had engaged and inspired me. But the professor wanted to make a point and so he did. “Although your facts are most likely accurate,” he pronounced, “your sentence structures and concept development is old school, using too much emotionalism.” And bah-humbug to you, too, I mumbled under my breath. The instructor’s comments that day pushed my own writing goals in the opposite direction of his “modern-path-of-writing,” and led me to study (and enjoy) many of the old school authors.
By the time I became a teacher myself, I selected semester reading lists including authors Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Mark Twain and Louisa May Alcott. Everyone groaned upon hearing Charles Dickens’ name and the specific book title: Hard Times. However, there was a method to my madness. My hope rested in my students’ abilities to discover the beautifully developed writing styles and logical thinking techniques presented by these old school authors. You see, writers (in every existing genre) are “teachers of ideas.” It is the readers who decipher the words and place the concepts in the most appropriate resource files, whether they do so consciously or not.
The three following points help us begin to think logically about the books we read—and write, of course—but especially the books we keep and/or use as resources.
- WHAT DO YOU KNOW about the author? Are your opinions based on someone else’s quick review of the writer’s works in-part or as a whole? Did you quickly form an opinion from one book you read by that author, then sealed that judgment for all future reference? The closed-door can become a wall and then a fortress unless one opens it. So, research the lives—the histories—of the authors you read. If you’re one who enjoys creating outlines, build a timeline (from birth to death), adding the personal and historic events that occurred within their sphere of existence—what they would have been exposed to.
- DO YOU HAVE AN OLD LIST of word-labels that have been attached to that author and his writings? Fold a piece of paper in half (lengthwise) and write those words on one side. After you’ve completed your personal research about this author, take a little time and consider those words and their multiple meanings. Do they really (accurately) fit him—as a person and writer? Turn your empathy ON and walk through his life beside him. Keep an open mind so that you can observe the truth about the circumstances he experienced and his human reaction—the imprints that were set in place—which, in turn, developed his writing style and the perspectives that birthed the plots, settings and characters in his books. Then write your own “labels” opposite those on that sheet of paper and compare them. You’ll find interesting differences.
- NOW ALLOW YOURSELF to move beyond empathy to insights. Can you see the logical progression of actions and events, people connections and environmental/cultural surroundings that are sown into the writings of this author? Tapping into your personal ability to discover these aspects will develop your writing skills to a whole new level. HOW EXCITING IS THAT!
|ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.|