I was watching an interview with a writer once…I wish I could remember who it was…where he said his background in classic literature helped his writing style. This stuck with me because I remember someone saying I have a very “Greek tragedy” quality about my writing. I always respond that’s because I read a lot of Greek tragedy’s in high school: Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Julius Caesar, Antigone. Yes, they are mainly Shakespeare, but that’s most of the required reading throughout high school nowadays.
I think there is value in the classics. Are they hard to get through? Yes. Are there things about them that are outdated as far as writing style? Yes. But when looking at the plot, I feel a writer can learn a lot from their structure. Today’s works seem about the action and romance. I do believe this is important so my writing stays current. But I love books that have the gut dropping surprise at the end. Classics, especially tragedies, are about pushing the boundaries of status-quo. Romeo and Juliet kills off their main characters. That’s a huge no, no in today’s publishing world…and yet maybe killing off one is a possibility. The Hunger Games has a lot of tragedy in the series, none more shocking than the last book. She had a handle on what would rip at the reader’s emotions.
Readers want to be inspired. They want to be touched in some way. Classics seem focused on this. I feel it is important to have a broad range of reading. Only then can piece together what works in each to help strengthen my own genre. The trick is plowing through the tough language to get to the meat of what makes a classic good.