All good authors learn from other writers. Whether they’ve opened doors for us, given the industry a bad name, or inspired us in some way, the other professional authors in this community have changed each of us. I take the time to study the industry and the authors I love (or didn’t love) to learn how to improve my own craft. Here are a few authors who have changed the way I write:
1.) Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games)—Shock Value Gets Attention
Collins took the most lovely, wonderful thing about our society (children) and dropped them into the most unthinkable horrors (the Hunger Games battles) and in doing so, she shocked the public. This shock was then used to illustrate her point and deliver a powerful message to readers. Shock gets attention, and it’s the perfect way to deliver a message. She gave me permission to write the difficult things.
2.) Veronica Roth (Divergent)—It’s Okay To Write Realistic Endings
In a world where so many publishers insist on fluffy, unrealistic endings, Roth broke our hearts in the most perfect way. She saw no other ending for her series and delivered one that shattered us but was incredibly fitting. She gave me permission to write the painful, realistic endings.
3.) Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki (Branded)—Make The Perfect Guy Have A Dark Side And Drive The Fans Wild
Ketner and Kalicicki creating a lead guy who starts off in a dark place, posed as the enemy. The heroine eventually cracks his tough exterior and he does everything in his power to protect her, making fans fall head over heels for him. Then, they slams us back to reality with the reminder that every character has a past that will come back to haunt them, and every leading man should have a little darkness to him…that will crush the souls of readers everywhere. They taught me to dangle perfection in front of readers and then destroy the pretty picture I’ve paiinted to reveal something darker and crueler, even in my most loved leading men.
4.) Kierra Cass (The Selection Series)—Fluff Has Its Place
Cass wrote a series that made my heart (mostly) happy. I might have shipped the wrong guy (come on!) but the story was overall a light and fluffy book set in a dystopian future where, outside the palace walls, it was anything but fluffy. She wrote in bits of the darkness, giving us tiny glimpses, but showed how an author can focus almost soley on the light and fluffy while still giving us a darker tale on the outside, briniging the best of both the light and dark stories together. She reminds me to give my characters some happiness…before ripping it away.
5.) Lindsay Cummings (The Murder Complex)—It’s Okay To Write Violence
Writing violence has become commonplace in today’s book world, but Cummings took it to an extreme level in her book, so much so that it made me uncomfortable. This was a great feat given the level of violence in many dystopian and fantasy novels, and because it was so polarizing, I never forgot how it made me squirm. She gave me the freedom to write torture that made my readers feel something in my books, which motivated my readers to root even harder for my characters.
6.) Sherry Ficklin (Queen Of Someday)—Do Your Research
I’ve always had a love for historical fiction, but I typically steer clear of it when writing because it requires copius amounts of research. What I didn’t realize until reading Ficklin’s book is just how much research goes into it and just how picky readers are with it. Researching when forks came into use might not be the best use of my time, but the attention to detail historical fiction writers have to pay is a good reminder to all-genre writers that research is imperative, because you will get called out on it if you don’t.
7.) Lisa Brown Roberts (The Replacement Crush)—Humor Sells
While I don’t read many contemporary novels, I will put down just about any book I’m reading to read a new book from Roberts. Her humor takes what I find to be a less-than-exciting genre and transports me to another world, just like my sci fi and fantasy does. Her humor draws me in and distinguishes her novels from others in the genre. Humor always has and always will sell. When I find ways to work in levity to my usually-darker tales, my fans always come back with love in my DMs for it.
8.) Kate Jarvik Birch (Perfected)—A Lack of Humanity Adds Humanity
Birch created a world where the main character is treated like a pet, rather than a human. Her owner dehumanizes her, treating her like a Golden Retriever, showing her off, and locking her up. By stripping away her humanity, it forces readers to see her in an even-more human light, and makes them question what would happen if their own freedoms were taken away. Stripping away basic things we take for granted from the main character turns our human connection with her into something even stronger. She taught me that taking away something we take for granted from a character endears characters to readers and makes them more relatable.
9.) Susan Harris (Shattered Memories)—Gut-Wrenching Endings Are Books That Stick
Harris wrote a dystopian novel that’s quite a bit different than most dystopians, and took a page from Veronica Roth’s playbook. Unlike Roth’s book, I didn’t see this ending coming and it destroyed me so much so that years later, I still think about it. Make a reader sob in the end (good or bad) and they’ll never forget the ending…this has proven true in my own novels judging by the DMs I get from fans.
10.) Tera Lynn Childs (Ten Things Sloane Hates About Tru)—Giving Characters A Life Outside Romance
Child’s story focuses around a young graphic designer with a secret life as a graphic novelist. While the story is a contemporary romance, much of it focuses on the main character’s hobbies, friends, and home life. It was the first book I saw that really put a strong emphasis on the character’s life outside of the main plot, and I loved that she not only had a life, but didn’t have to justify it or reveal it to anyone but herself. As someone who is into the arts, it was also one of the first times I had seen the arts—and a specific type of art—clearly focused on in a story. I don’t typically care for contemporary, but I loved this one because it opened more than the “typical” high school world that I find in most stories. It reminds me to give my characters lives aside from the main plot and romance too.
Now, tell me about you. What lessons have YOU learned from authors?