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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Figuring out the 'presentation'

“The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.” – Charles Dickens

Today is the anniversary of Dickens’ birth in 1812.  During his relatively short lifetime (he died at age 58), he created some of the world's best-known fictional characters, establishing himself as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.  His novels, short stories and plays have enjoyed unprecedented popularity both during his lifetime, and yet today.  And, both 20th century and 21st century critics and scholars have recognized him as a literary genius.

As a writer, if you’re looking for an example to guide you, just look to almost any phrase or paragraph from Dickens and you’ll be safely on your way.  I’ve always loved the simplistic power of his descriptions, like this sentence about a March day.  It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”  Everything we need to know in under 30 words.

Dickens’ writings gave the world the term Dickensian, used to describe something reminiscent of both him and his writings, as well as things like the poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters of which he wrote.  He was a master of character development and his portrayal of life and the world around him.  His words still transport us into that world 200 years later.

He loved writing from an early age, but almost didn’t become a writer.  He had prepared himself to be an actor, but at the time of his first tryout, he came down with a cold and could not do the reading.  While recuperating, he wrote a story 
that was so well received he decided writing might be a better choice.

He soon began a newspaper column called “Street Sketches,” which eventually became The Pickwick Papers, published when he was 24.  Two years later, his novel Oliver Twist was published – the first book to have a child protagonist.  He also wrote his first 4 plays during this period.  He never turned back from a writing career, and said he never lacked ideas.  Ideas are everywhere, he said, “You just have to figure out how to present them.   An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.”

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