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.