As I’m sure anyone following my blog for a while now has noticed I’m becoming worse and worse at posting regularly. I think it’s because I don’t realise how fast the days go by. It feels like I wrote my last post yesterday, and figuring out what your next post is going to be about can sometimes be impossible. Either because you want to write about so many things or none at all. But then I remembered a theme that has been recurring throughout conversations the last week or so.
I was doing an assignment for Swedish class where we were supposed to compare to different writing styles from the same eras. I realised after looking back and forth between the texts that even though they both played out in the same time and were both a peek into the darker side of society, with poverty, crime and oppression of the individual, they were extremely different as in regards to atmosphere and language.
“Why?” I asked myself. How can two authors, living during roughly the same time, writing about the same social class and somehow wanting to explain the hardship that these people went through, manage to get two such different outcomes?
There could be many answers. “The voice of the author”, geography, upbringing, religious or philosophical views or any number of things could play into the reason as for why two people writing about the same thing can write so differently. But to me the real difference lies in what a person sees, what a person chooses to tell and not to tell, the details that capture or upset.
For example, Stephenie Meyer could simply have started the Twilight books with “There once was a young, insecure, clumsy teenage girl, and then there was a sexy vampire boy, and it sort of just rained all the time and they fell in love…” but instead, she tells the story differently, holding suspense and mystery alive, letting young, insecure teenage girls – and many women far past their teens – feel like this could be them, and this is in fact about them, and they life they should have, and BAM, there you go, best-seller. Appeal to the audience and the audience will come. (Btw, I’m not saying I think Stephenie Meyer is an outstanding author, though I will admit I have seen a noticeable progress in her work from book 1 to 4 in the Twilight series. I am only saying that she knows what people want to read, and she writes it.)
Or to better explain, you could send two journalists to the same country. Let’s say Mexico. Now one journalist might send back an article about how lovely the weather and the scenery was, how great the food, how friendly the people etc. The other might instead send a tense piece of work about the drug lords, poverty and slums. Both these images would be true but if you had never been to Mexico, or don’t know much about it, it might well shape your entire view on what that country is like.
So is it with all authors then. If I tell you a firsthand account on how boring Swedes can be and all the negative things about the Swedish culture, and then one of your American friends go to visit and rave about how gorgeous the place is and how friendly and exciting the people, who are you going to believe? I say you always believe whomever is telling you what you want to hear. When we see someone express things the way we would or see things from our point of view, we are a lot more likely to believe them than the perhaps more qualified person who turns into a moron in our eyes because of his opposing views.
But no matter who writes something, what matters is not what they write about, but how.