This post was originally published on my old blog, An Excellent Library, in May 2012. I’ve decided to go through my archives and find old posts to share again. This new feature will be called Weekend Memories. Here’s to remembering where we’ve come from!

I’ve completed my first foray into Dickens.

For some strange reason I’ve never ventured to read any of his works before. I’ve had a number of them on my shelves for years, and yet never opened them.

I’ve had moments of recollection in Oliver Twist with famous lines like “Please sir, I want some more” and  infamous characters like The Artful Dodger.

I’ve been amused by humourous insults (stupid-head!). Yes, that phrase was penned by the literary genius Charles Dickens.

I’ve been awed by beautiful prose that demands to be read aloud. (Try it. Pick up Oliver Twist, turn to a random page and start reading aloud. Some of it is just lovely.)

And I’ve been confused and bored by sentences four, six, or eight lines long that seem to avoid giving me any information concerning the plot.

I can’t help comparing Oliver Twist and Dickens’ masculine prose with that of authors I am more familiar with – Austen, Brontë, Alcott, Montgomery. It may be merely the topic, but his characters are much seedier. His dialogue is shorter and to the point. His descriptions are lengthy.

I find the differences between contemporary fiction, the classics, and non-fiction, so interesting.

What types of stories do you enjoy?

  • action and suspense? or emotional rollercoaster?
  • everyday scenarios or dramatic out of this world adventures?
  • short timeframes or long, multi-generational stories?
  • some romance or lots of romance?
  • happy endings, sad endings, or realistic endings?
  • stories with current relevance or timeless impact?

When you read (or write!), what do you like better?

  • learning about characters through dialogue or inner monologues?
  • character description or scene description?
  • familiar words or learning new vocabulary?
  • short sentences or long, complex structures?
  • one point-of-view character or multiple narrators?

There are so many aspects to literature.

The more I read, the more I realize how broad and interesting this world of books is.

Different genres, different authors, different styles.

Go ahead! Read something or someone new today and see where it takes you.
Try writing from a new point of view or in a different genre than usual and see what you discover!

  1. Speaking of Dickens! I read a post recently that is about how Dickens got paid by the word. The post said something like, “If I got paid by the word, I wouldn’t use contractions either and instead of saying the word ‘red’, I’d say, ‘the color of freshly spilt blood in the snow; the hue of the horizon when the sun sets in the vast deserts of Africa'”. XD

    And then the post goes on to add that Alexander Dumas got paid by the line, which is why he has so much dialogue and it’s written like:

    “Where are we going?”
    “To the city.”
    “Which city?”
    “Paris.”
    “We’re going to Paris?”
    “Yes.”

  2. Sign me up for the classics! I like prose that I can sink my teeth into and learn new words from. I wonder if the change has anything to do with scratching ink onto a rough parchment with a feather versus fingertips on a keyboard. That would argue against the classics being wordy but instead we are the ones who hone it all down to a comma. Perhaps they treasured their words more because they fought harder for them.

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