Lately most of the books I have read are dusty old novels who’s copy writes have long expired. Many of these books I read when I was a kid, but about six months ago I decided to read them again. Why read (or reread) the classics?
From a writer‘s standpoint, the reasoning is clear. Books that have stood the test of time, and writers who are household names many years after their deaths must have something to offer. I find that each writer is really good at something, whether it be character development, setting description, or their use of conflict. We modern writers stand to learn a lot from those of old. And if you read the classics before you became a writer, you probably missed a lot of the really neat things these wordsmiths from the past were profoundly good at.
For example: I just finished rereading “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. He has always been one of my favorite writers, but I had not read any of his works since becoming a novelist myself. My conclusions, aside from this being a great book that has lessons to be learned on many levels–sociological, psychological, historical, etc, etc–Dickens is a master of character development and of weaving the lives of multiple characters together for an explosive (albeit heart-wrenching) climax. The way he sneaks his characters into the story, many of them seeming to have less meaningful roles, or perhaps secondary roles that serve only to enhance your understanding to the main characters (MCs) is amazing. He takes that seemingly secondary character and gives them a pivotal role in the story in a way that satisfies the reader’s desire for those twist and turns that leave you with whiplash.
I’m going to be blogging about other classics I’ve been reading as of late, not to give a traditional book review, but to tell what lesson I think a writer can learn from reading (or rereading) these books. With Chuck Dickens, I think the lesson to be learned is primarily in the character development department, though all of the greats have lots to offer in every part of the writer’s toolbox.