Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

While I probably still credit Steinbeck and Dickens for sending me down the road to crazy writerville, I must admit that Maya Angelou is the writer who taught me the most about the vivid, colorful way that people talk on the page.

I first read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in high school and I loved it so much that it was the first adult book that I actually read twice. If I remember correctly I finished it and started reading it again straight away. It was that good!

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Rich, layered, funny, sad and sometimes completely weird, Angelou’s characters (which were mostly based on real people from her life since it was a memoir) and their distinctive voices literally popped off the page. It was, and still is, a truly amazing read.

Even if that was the only thing she’d ever done, something tells me we’d still be celebrating Angelou today. But, luckily for us, Angelou was so much more than a writer and a poet and the bold, fascinating way she lived her life should be an example for us all. There will never be anyone quite like Dr. Maya Angelou. So, thank you for the inspiration, the words and most of all, the priceless life lessons you shared with us along the way. RIP sweet lady…

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Happy 200th birthday, Mr. Dickens!

I know it was like, two days ago now, but, it’s never too late to celebrate the birth of one of my favorite writers of all time. So, happy belated 200th birthday to Charles Dickens.

I haven’t read nearly as much of his work as I should, but, I will say that Dickens is second only to John Steinbeck in the way he has influenced my writing. Wait…on second thought, John Irving had a pretty big impact on my writing style as well, but, he’s kind of a modern-day Dickens in my book, so, I don’t always count him. Sorry, dude.

Anyway, aside from the many vivid, iconic characters Dickens created over the years, what I love most about his work is that he knew how to milk a story for drama. And like many writers of popular fiction (and some of my favorite fellow screenwriters) Dickens’ work was chided by critics for not being substantial or meaningful, as if writing a really great page turner was some kind of crime. But, lemme tell ya, the complexity and beauty of his strongest stories is truly something to behold.

You can’t just casually flip through Dickens, man, you have to pay attention. To everything! Hell, that’s half the fun of it. The strange names, the larger-than-life characters, the diversions that seem pointless at the time but pay off, sometimes hundreds of pages later in genuinely shocking ways — pay careful attention to that swarthy convict on page seven, dear reader, because he just might turn out to be your secret benefactor on page three-hundred-something! — I mean, love him or hate him, you gotta give Dickens credit for being a master of structure. My head spins just thinking about him outlining something like BLEAK HOUSE…yikes!

And best of all, Dickens didn’t just dazzle us with cool plot twists for the fun or it. No way! These twists and turns of fate had meaning and impact and made us root for his characters even more. I think that’s what makes so many of his books so damn cinematic. There is so much description and beauty and humor and pain and pathos on every page that they literally read like movies.

Oy, I could go on about Charles Dickens for days, but, seeing as I have a toddler to feed and, you know, pay attention to and stuff, so, I’ll stop here. Happy birthday, Mr. Dickens! Ooo, and thanks to Google for the awesome Dickens Google Doodle on Tuesday. So cool!!

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