“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”
Recipe for a great evening: a great book, great company, delicious pizza, and just enough imbibing to keep you feeling frisky and fresh. This was the mix we came up with when my reading/writing group got together to discuss The Picture of Dorian Gray by the great Oscar Wilde, a favorite author of mine. While some elements of our boy Oscar’s style seemed ornate and dated, we found much to admire from a craft angle, Here are some of Oscar’s assets we admired and might all benefit from:
Thinking big: Oscar took on an ambitious theme in The Picture of Dorian Gray: the relationship between life and art. And he was by turns bold, witty, philosophical, and tragic in his multi-faceted treatment of it.
Theatricality: Oscar’s is known for his witty plays — The Importance of Being Earnest is still hugely popular. And he cleverly exploited playwriting techniques in his novel to great effect. One example: the main character, Dorian Gray, remains “off stage” for the first 20 pages or so of the book. This builds lots of anticipation in the reader.
Mystery: Oscar hooks his readers and keeps them guessing by describing an influential book and a blackmail note — but never fully reveals their contents. This withholding of tantalizing information from the reader is an intriguing device.
Multi-tasking dialogue: Oscar uses dialogue in a host of creative ways. He uses it asElmore Leonard does, for example, to cleverly convey lots of information and character. He also uses it to explore his views with a light, often witty, touch — and to advance plot.
Taking a great novel and analyzing it from a craft standpoint can be super instructive and inspiring. Why not try it with some friends — and then write on!