Post and Artwork by Sylvia Nica, Age 14, USA
To Kill a Mockingbird, David Copperfield, and War of the Worlds are all extremely diverse novels. And while most books fade away after a time, these classic novels have continued to captivate readers, generation after generation.
So why would this be important to a young writer?
Reading classics is a great way to develop your writing. The language can sometimes be archaic, but the style you’ll be exposed to will help your own voice flourish and mature.
When reading, notice how the authors have used cutting dialogue and colourful descriptions to capture your imagination, or the way they apply figurative language.
For example, in To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee uses precise descriptions to clue us in on characters that will be important later in the plot. Books like these can help your writing reach a new level of depth, teaching you how to better connect to your reader. While you don’t want to be using words such as “here thee” or “hark, there he goes,” by looking at how these writers set up their plot and hold your attention, you’ll have a solid model to improve your story and an entertaining way to expand your vocabulary.
Characters are another reason to read classics.
The characters in these literary masterworks are extremely well developed. You will find examples of both fascinating villains and complicated protagonists that succeed to connect to the reader despite their age. In an era where many characters seem cut from the same cloth, this can be a fresh inspiration for your own story cast.
When you notice a classic protagonist that seems especially riveting, try writing down their key characteristics or flaws. You’ll gain an understanding of what makes them human, and why you love or hate them. Ask yourself what made them survive the test of time. You can then apply these lessons to your own character development.
Take Uriah Heap, a despicable character from David Copperfield. Because he is unscrupulous, deceptive, and always trying to take advantage of the weak, he is someone readers from all generations can dislike.
The next time you’re in a bookstore, instead of picking up a bestseller, try sitting down with a classic. You’ll see your writing evolve and mature, and the insights into the art and craft of writing a story will stick with you indefinitely.
Sylvia says: “With an earlier novel completed, and another one in the making, I am definitely someone who enjoys writing longer stories. But I’ve been working on expanding my craft into short stories, and I love experimenting with poetry.”