Sunday, April 08, 2007

How Dean Koontz Makes Me a Better Writer

I've always enjoyed words. When an author uses language in unique and lovely ways, I am amazed. Poets tend to have the advantage in this arena and while a poem inspire me in other ways, it does not inspire me as a writer.

When I was in high school and a staff member of the "Tepee Times," the school's newspaper, my advisor would read from Tom Wolfe's The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. Wolfe has a gift for language and he dug deep to find unique ways of describing the events he reported on. He was able to communicate the wonder of his topic with the power of his words. As a journalism student, he inspired me to look at my stories in a different light and find new ways of writing a story.

Now that I write novel-length fiction, I look for new inspiration. I could rattle off the names of many romance writers who inspired me, who pulled me into writing. But as I've advanced in my writing, my inspirations change.

I suppose it would be more appropriate to find inspiration in literary novels, but my taste in fiction is far less lofty. Right now I'm reading Dean Koontz's Forever Odd and I almost lose track of the story because of my enchantment with how Koontz writes. I get weird looks from people when I say I draw inspiration from Koontz. I don't draw inspiration from all of his books, just the "Odd Thomas" series. Koontz's use of structure along with words moves me. Written from the hero's point of view, the books use a gentle humor with witty dialogue to deepen the poignancy of the character and his stories. Koontz uses short sentences with minimal articles and places them in small paragraphs. Odd is a simple person, uneducated but smart. He isn't a showy character and the way Koontz writes communicates this to the reader.

I like Koontz's use of dialogue to move his characters and reveal them. While Odd is an introspective character, Koontz shows this introspection is only half-right and uses his other characters and their dialogue to give the reader the other half of the story.

As a writer, particularly as one who writes in first person, I delight in Koontz's style. It isn't as easy as it seems to create a multi-dimensional character with just one point of view. But Koontz manages with a combination of things.

Anyway, as a writer, who inspires you right now? Is there an author's structure you admire? Their use of characters and plot?

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