Tuesday, September 29, 2009

10 Things I Wish I'd Written

I thought it might be fun to talk about those pieces of writing that move you beyond mere emotion to that magical land of wistful sigh and “I wish. . . .” Often my husband and I will watch a movie or share a book then look at each other and say, “I wish I could write that.” This isn’t an exact science. In fact, I’m sure when you weigh in with comments, I’ll see at least ten works that might rank above what I have here. It’s just for the fun of it, so allow me to begin and then I would love to hear some of the things you wish you’d written.

10. Straight Man. This novel from Richard Russo metes out humor and angst in equal parts. I love this quirky story about a professor who has nightmares about his wife having an affair with his best friend while navigating the murky waters of a university faculty and suffering the ill-effects of an enlarged prostate. No, really. It’s funny.

9. Lonesome Dove. I devoured all thousand plus pages in almost a day. I fell in love with the characters, especially Gus. McMurtry writes so beautifully that a review I once saw in Haversack Books says it best, “Have you ever read a thousand page book and thought it was too short?”

8. The Thursday Next Series. I love the concept of a literary detective who can jump into books and through time—in fact, I want to be one. My favorite is The Well of Lost Plots where Thursday runs into all of the characters who have been cast aside or are coming into being. I don’t always love the writing itself, but I really loved the idea and eagerly went along for the ride.

7. Clue. I adore the mystery movie, the clever endings, and all of the witty repartee and double entendres. Like The Westing Game, I can only wish I were this clever.

6. Nora Roberts’s Chesapeake Bay Series. Most of us adore Nora, but this series in particular hooked me from the get-go. These are broken heroes just begging for the right woman to help them heal, and most of us would gladly volunteer. The story of sheer genius, though, is the second one. Ethan is my favorite romance novel hero of all time. If you don’t know why, you need to read the book.

5. The Westing Game. I just re-read this young adult award winner to my son and relived the sheer delight of discovering the book as a girl. If you write any type of YA, I would highly recommend reading The Westing Game. The mystery is so clever I can’t begin to see how Raskin pieced it together. The characters are memorable and quirky, and almost all of them transform into a better self, the perfect formula for a commercial success. As with all of my picks, this one packs in the humor and the suspense.

4. The Mummy and Pirates of the Caribbean. I love moves that have adventure, humor, and romance. If there’s an element of suspense or mystery, all the better. Brendan Fraiser is a fabulous mixture of hot and adorable, an alpha hero who’s not too alpha. Pirates has double the eye candy with straight arrow Will as the man who will go to any lengths for the woman he loves and rogue Jack Sparrow, the ultimate bad boy. In The Mummy, Evie transforms from dowdy librarian to more than a match for Imothep. In the Pirates series, Elizabeth transforms from plucky governor’s daughter to skilled swordswoman and captain of her own ship. You can’t go wrong with strong heroines and hunky men in a race against supernatural forces. In a perfect world there would be a romance genre simply called “Adventure,” and I would be the queen.

3. The Princess Bride. I love this story from top to bottom. It doesn’t lag, and it takes its relationship to fairy tales with tongue firmly in cheek. I confess I thought it an exception to the adage that commercial stories require a transformation in the main character. Then I watched the movie with my kids and realized it’s really about the grandson discovering his love and respect for his grandpa, and I fell in love with the movie all over again. When the grandpa answers “as you wish” at the end--talk about your perfectly satisfying movie ending!

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A teenage vampire slayer falls in love with a centuries old vampire but that’s not enough conflict for Joss Whedon. Oh, no. When she finally sleeps with said vampire, he loses his soul and becomes psychotic and heartless resulting in her having to kill him to save humanity. But, wait, killing her first true love isn’t bad enough either--just seconds before she sends him to hell, he regains his soul and becomes the man she loves once again. And that’s one of MANY storylines from Joss Whedon. He, too, is the master of quirky humor and characters who visibly grow and change over time. I could devote a whole post to his pantheon of beautifully developed characters.

1. The Harry Potter series. I know this one is going to be popular, but I have to say it. Rowling has done it all: adventure, magic, mystery, humor, and, yes, romance. While I’m reading I’m totally immersed in her wizarding world, and when I finish I sigh wistfully wishing I could write something as complex as the story of Harry Potter. Unlike all of the examples above, Rowling consistently weaves page-turner plots with beautiful prose. Parents should send her thank you letters not only for getting kids to read but also for sneaking SAT words seamlessly into stories designed for young adults. In the end it’s that beautiful blend of well-developed characters and a continuous mystery culminating in the ultimate whodunit that makes me wish I had written Harry Potter. Just like Buffy I could write a month’s worth of posts devoted to why I love Harry Potter, but I’ll spare you.

Okay, now it’s your turn. What do you wish with all of your heart you had written? Now that I’ve come to the end, I confess I have an ulterior motive. Maybe examining what you wish you had written can help you discover what you should be writing, so let’s all plop on the psychiatrist’s couch and wax poetic on our favorites for a look at who we are and who we hope to be.


Carol Burnside said...

I wish I'd written To Kill A Mockingbird. Lordy, where to start? Memorable characters that leapt off the pages and into our hearts, awesome hero, a story that tugged at our heart strings and lessons on intolerance, ignorance, and basic decency.

Debbie Kaufman said...

The Louis La'mour novels. Such description. And the old west with incredible accuracy. WoW.
Okay, and anything in the Shakespeare folio, LOL.
More modern? The world of Harry Potter. Good versus evil and an incredible, detailed imaginary world.
Well that combination would probably have a psychiatrist scratching their head!

Cyrano said...

I love this post first of all because, of course, it's well written. But I also love it because I've been given the names of a few books I've never read and now can try because of excellent reviews.
Okay, I wish I had written the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Now those are pretty long books too, but I was hooked from the very first page and couldn't put them down.
I also wish, for selfish reasons, that I had written Twilight...Good God, talk about moolah.
The thing I wish I could write the most, however is my own book, Sophie White and the Seven Drag Queens. It's a great premise, has great characters and lots of promise, but...after years of talking about the damn thing I still haven't finished it. Why?
If I knew the answer, the book would have already written itself.
This post was a good boot in the butt Sally.
I need to finish that book so maybe someday, some bright eyed pre-pub will say, Gosh, I wish I had written that SWTSDQ in answer to a similarly good question.
Excellent post Sally.
Have a great Tuesday,

Cyrano said...

Oooo, oooo, I have another one, Satr Wars! Man I wish I had written that series, those characters, the very basic but insurmountable conflict...now that's brilliance. I know, I know, I'm such a geek, but I love those movies.
And, Sally, Buffy....the bomb!! I loved that show from the pilot and watched it religiously through to its finale. And Angel? The hotness. Need I say more.
If you ever want to just shoot the breeze and yap about those two shows, I'm your gal.
I was totally distressed when they ended tose two shows, but recently, I found another that has filled the void, and filled it to over flowing. Supernatural.
I wish I had written that one too. Two brother, complete oposites, thrown back together with a common goal. Both incredibly hot, driving a hot, black 67 chevy, battling the forces of evil. OMG! Love that show.

Maxine Davis said...

This was a wonderful post! Just loved it!

Agatha Christie gets my vote. I think she was just absolutely brilliant and I would love to write whodunits.

Well, of course, JKRowling just knocked my socks off! So very, very Brilliant, and you are right. It does have everything.

Sally Kilpatrick said...


How could I forget To Kill a Mockingbird? It was so good I don't even think Harper Lee could motivate herself to write anything more.

I like your ideas, too. I really loved Shadow Riders, although I confess I liked the movie better than the book thanks to Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot.

Who wouldn't want to have written Shakespeare? You would have been creating your own words somethings and creating plots that others would pirate for centuries--good answer.

And you know how I feel about Harry Potter--I think I sense a theme in your choices: that good vs. evil that's so apparent in the last one. Still, L'Amour writes about the old west with white and black hats while Shakespeare is always concerned with characters like Iago and Lady MacBeth.

Very interesting, ladies!

Sally Kilpatrick said...


First and foremost, I think you absolutely shoukd finish Sofie White. I would be happy to serve as a beta reader for what you have so far. (hint, hint)

I confess--and please don't anyone throw anything at me--that I haven't read Diana Galbadon. I knew folks would remind me of other things, and Star Wars is definitely one. I'm a purist who loves the older three more than the later three because the story is so deceptively simple in A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back them bam! Luke, I am your father.

As for Buffy and Angel, we can talk. You, me, Marilyn Estes, and anyone else who loves Joss. I'll have to try Supernatural, too.


Sally Kilpatrick said...


How could I forget Agatha Christie! My mom and I bonded over her mysteries, especially Murder on the Orient Express, a must for everyone, and Ten Little Indians. Thanks for chiming in.

Marilyn Baron said...

There are so many great books, almost every time I finish one, I think, gee I wish I had written that. Too many to list. A few of the more recent ones:

South of Broad by Pat Conroy
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo. (I didn't read Straight Man but I will)

Little Bee

I'm currently reading An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, the latest in her Outlander series, so anything by her featuring one of my favorite heroes, Jamie Fraser.

Anything by Nora Roberts or Alice Hoffman.

Great post.

Marilyn Baron

J Perry Stone said...

I love this, Sally!

1) Eat, Pray, Love--soul!

2) The MacLairen's Isle Trilogy and All Through the Night--writing! (Connie Brockway)

3) A Well-Favored Gentleman--Best hero ever! (Christina Dodd)

4) The Vampire Who Love Me--biggest "wow moment" ever! (Teresa Medieros)

5) Pleasure for Pleasure--my favorite heroine of all times, Josie (Eloisa James)

6) Dreaming of You--chemistry! (Lisa Kleypas)

6) The Proposition--most unusual hero (Judith Ivory)

7) The Leopard Prince--Hoyt

8) Lord of the Rings

9) Jane Eyre

10) Elegance of the Hedgehog

Phew. If I had all that in my talent pot, I'd serve everyone a feast ... everyday.

CiCi Barnes said...

Well, being the pure Southern girl that I am, I have to say I wish I'd written "Gone With the Wind". I'm not sure I could ever finish it though. At Margaret Mitchell's ending, I would have gone on to show how Scarlett and Rhett returned to each other for the perfect HEA.

Great post, Sally.


Tami Brothers said...

Oh man! You guys are giving some awesome stories!!!

I wish I had written the Twilight books and/or Harry Potter. I'm not picky. I'd take either or...grin....

Really, I do love that Chesapeake Bay series! They were the first stories I read of Nora's and at one time after that I owned the whole listing of Nora books.

I really wish I had thought of the Nancy Drew series. That would be soooo cool. I love that they have redesigned them to fit this modern day.

I also love the Pirates and Mummy stories. Add me to that list. I'm racking my brain to come up with something original but I'm drawing a blank...

Ohhhh, Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunters. Now that would be a world I would LOVE to be a part of... Or Sherri and Dianna Love's BAD books. I just finished the latest one and am drooling to get my hands on the next one in the series.

AND Gillian Summers' The Faire Folk Trilogy. I LOVED that look into the Ren Fair.

Thanks for all these new story ideas. I'll have to grab me some more books to read...


Ana Aragón said...


Great post! I love all of Kaye Gibbons stories, especially Ellen Foster and On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon, which certainly changed my mind on who won the Civil War!

Carolyn See's book Making A Literary Life was the impetus for making the leap to fiction writing. And when I wrote her an e-mail to thank her, she replied in about two minutes. I was in awe.

I love, love, love to read historical romance and would give anything to be able to write one. Favorite authors include Mary Balogh's Simply and Slightly series, and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice!

I could go on and on...!


Linsey Lanier said...

Great post, Sally!

Lots of cool reads here.

I wish I had written the Myron Bolitar series (Harlan Coben). Or the J.D Robb In Death series. Or any book by Stephanie Bond....


Nicki Salcedo said...

The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Beloved by Toni Morrison.
Desire Never Changes by Penny Jordan (Harlequin Presents).

And there, Sally, you see my quandary.

Sally Kilpatrick said...


I'm going to have to try Diana Galbadon! And I'm so glad to meet someone who likes Richard Russo, although I haven't read That Old Cape Magic yet--it's supposed to be similar in tone to Straight Man, ironically enough.

Sally Kilpatrick said...


I'm going to check these out:
3) A Well-Favored Gentleman--Best hero ever! (Christina Dodd)

4) The Vampire Who Love Me--biggest "wow moment" ever! (Teresa Medieros)

5) Pleasure for Pleasure--my favorite heroine of all times, Josie (Eloisa James)

And I can't believe I left out LOTR

Sally Kilpatrick said...


Ah, Gone with the Wind. I have a much greater appreciation for GWTW after visiting the Margaret Mitchell house and finidng out more about her as a writer. If anyone out there has just watched the movie and/or hasn't read the book, I highly recommend you at least visit the Margaret Mitchell House.

Thanks for the idea

Sally Kilpatrick said...


Brilliant with Nancy Drew. And I could really go for some Dark hunters and BAD agents, too--how could I miss either one of those in my quest for adventure stories?

Sally Kilpatrick said...


Thanks for remembering Kaye Gibbons. I've read almost everything by her, but Ellen Foster is just awesome.

I'm really fond of Mary Balogh, too. I started reading her when she was doing the little Zebras.

Sally Kilpatrick said...


Love the Body Movers books, but I haven't tried Coban. I'll have to get right on that even if my TBR pile is currently taller than my ceiling.

Sally Kilpatrick said...


I think you're just going to have to create your own genre. Someday we'll all be wanting to write like Salcedo.

I know what you mean, though? You got me to thinking--what am I going to do with some of my all-time favorite? I totally forgot Their Eyes Were Watching God. Let's mix it in with a little Lonesome Dove, the first Regency I read: The Duchess and the Devil, a little Winds of War, some Midnight Bayou, and some of Savage's The Inheritance.

No one will ever be able to say you aren't well-rounded.