One of my clients, a man who hopes to become a successful novelist, recently told me that his favorite writers are Pat Conroy, Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King, and Nelson DeMille.
I was glad to hear it. Those four authors cover a wide range of writing styles. During the conversation with my client, it became clear that he not only reads novels by these authors, but he thinks about the novels and the writing techniques that have made these authors so successful.
You should be doing this, too. By exposing yourself to variety in your reading habits, and by paying attention to how successful authors work their craft, you’ll be able to find your own writing voice and, hopefully, your own success.
Speaking of successful authors . . .
Block vs. Burke
In my recent blog posts about dialogue, I mentioned one of my favorite writers, Lawrence Block. I especially like Block’s Matthew Scudder series. Scudder is a private investigator who also happens to be a recovering alcoholic. He usually has serious personal problems to resolve while tracking down murderers, kidnappers, and other appropriately evil antagonists. The dialogue in these novels is typically quick back-and-forth lines that give the reader little in terms of physical setting and visual hits on the characters as they interact.
Another author I like is James Lee Burke. Like Lawrence Block, Burke has written a series about a private investigator. This man’s name is Dave Robicheaux, and he lives and works in the New Orleans area. There are a lot of similarities between Block’s character Matthew Scudder and Burke’s character Dave Robicheaux. Both are private investigators. Both are ex-cops. Both are recovering alcoholics. Both are intelligent and introspective. Both often have relationship problems. Both are good at solving murders.
With all those similarities in their stories and main characters, you might think that Burke and Block would naturally adapt similar styles in how they use dialogue.