Part of any writer’s responsibility is to study the writers who influence his or her writing.
Experts will advise the developing writer (and any writer worth a reader’s time should consider herself/himself developing on some level) should read everything available in his/her chosen genre, but writers should also read outside their genre, as well as a wide variety of non-fiction (everything feeds the writing; the more you vary what you read, the stronger your writing can become).
Sometimes that leads to highbrow tomes that will impress snobs and stop the queen in her tracks. Other times, this leads to obsession and delight and big damn fun that fuels the writing.
Right now, I’m enjoying a bit of both.
I’m having a Joss Whedon summer. I didn’t plan it that way, but I am so glad it happened.
Destiny started in a bookstore.
I happened across Reading Joss Whedon Edited by Rhonda V. Wilcox, Tanya R. Cochran, Cynthea Masson, and David Lavery. I have read these Whedon Studies scholars before, including Why Buffy Matters: The Art of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Fighting The Forces: What’s at Stake in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, so I knew I was purchasing a collection of collegiate papers on Whedon’s canon.
What struck me about Reading Joss Whedon was that is seemed so clearly designed to be used as a college text book. I was reminded of the fact that a number of colleges now offer Whedon Studies classes, something I would love to teach, to be honest. I was interested in how this collection would include papers from across the Whedonverse, and whether it would hold up as a collegiate text.
But this reading project has grown since I left the safe environs of the bookstore. I realized that I also had another Whedon volume I had not yet read, Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion: The TV Series, The Movies, The Comics Books, and More (edited by Pop Matters). And then two more surfaced, Joss Whedon’s Names: The Deeper Meanings Behind Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Cabing In The Woods, The Avengers, Doctor Horrible, In Your Eyes, Comics, and More, written by Valerie Estelle Frankel, and finally, Joss Whedon: The Biography by Amy Pasacale. Suddenly, I had a summer course of study. I dove in.
Pascale’s bio is not supposed to be available in the U.S. Until August 1, but Amazon sent it to me a few days ago, and I inhaled it. Exceedingly readable and very enjoyable, though, as any true Whedon fan, I would have preferred a thousand pages instead of the mere 387 (plus indexes) offered here.
Yes, there are plenty of interviews from writers and actors and tech people involved, but much of it comes from published sources, so not much new ground is broken here.
The insights on Whedon’s characters and his writing style are informative, appreciated, but left a hunger for more, more, more. A separate volume could be written just on his characterization and story development, and another on his actual writing process.
But the bio could not be put down.
Another interesting read has been Joss Whedon’s Names. While clearly an unsanctioned and unofficial text, Frankel is clearly well-versed in literary research, and her views on the roots and literary, scientific, spiritual, and cultural links to the names Whedon gives his characters is fascinating and inspiring.
Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion is closer to my previous reads, an exhilaratingly representative collection of papers and essays about all things Whedon, covering the wide variety of collegiate topics listed above. Consistently fascinating, insightful, and well researched, this volume offers so much for a writer to consider about Whedon’s work, and then her or his own. What connections to the collective literary/cultural conversation are we making? The more we put into our writing, the more readers will get out of their experience of our work.
I look forward to finishing these readings and devouring Reading Joss Whedon this summer. And yes, one side effect is a desire to revisit his TV shows and films and comics, and that, in my humble experience, is never a bad thing.
How is it fueling my writing? I do find myself considering my creative heroes, their writing styles, and work, and the effect of that on my own writing. I do notice that when I am away from the writing, I am thinking about it, visualizing it, replaying it in my head more often. And I am getting to the writing with more energy, more faith, more discipline
Whatever it takes to serve the story….
</ Ryan is author of City of Woe, available on Kindle and Nook, and in print. For more info, click here.<