Although classes and books are ways writers improve their skills, another way is to analyze the skills of writers we admire. Here are some writers we each turn to when looking for great examples of particular aspects of craft, such as dialogue, transitions, description and action.Judy Penz Sheluk: John Sanford is the master of pacing. I love how Tana French takes a minor character in one book and makes them the protagonist in another. Fiona Barton for cleverly twisted plots with a simple premise. Agatha Christie because (most of) her books still hold up today.
Shari Randall: What would Agatha do? Is a question I ask myself when I run into plotting roadblocks. Her ingenious and byzantine plotting sets a high bar that I know I’ll never reach, but it does inspire. For dialogue I’ll turn to the films of the thirties. As far as most elements of writing, I worship Kate Atkinson in general. For action, I turn to Dan Brown. He has his detractors, but his stories move.
Juliana Aragon Fatula: Linda Rodriguez has helped me so much with her Plotting the Character Driven Novel. Stephen King because he writes the characters I love: Annie Wilkes, and Dolores Clairborne and many other strong women.
T.K. Thorne: Sue Monk Kidd. I just think her writing is amazing.
Kay Kendall: For emotional depth I look to Louise Penny. No one fleshes out personality and motivation as well as she does. For violent action balanced with understanding of the human psyche, all written in fantastic prose, I think Tim Hallinan and Reed Farrel Coleman can’t be beat.
Bethany Maines: I actually look quite often to movies. A well-crafted script (and there are many that aren’t) is incredibly informative about getting a story and characters from point A to point B.
A.B. Plum: Elmore Leonard is my go-to-dialogue guru. His characters make me laugh out loud, and I admire his zany plotting – proving nothing is too crazy if you entertain the reader.
Dru Ann Love: I will answer this as the only book that I reread is J.D. Robb as it has everything, great narrative, good dialogue, good transition, great visuals, nice suspense and plenty of action.
J.M. Phillippe: I think it depends on which genre I am writing in. I was taught a mimicking exercise in college, where you start to copy, word for word, something an author has written to get a sense of their literary voice, and then continue the passage using your own words but mimicking their style. Depending on what genre I am writing, I will pick up well known and respected authors in genre and do a mimicking exercise. I am also always expanding my favorite author list that way.
Linda Rodriguez: Toni Morrison and John Steinbeck are two writers I turn to for improving my dialogue. For description, I turn to Alice Walker and Stephen King. For action scenes, I like Elizabeth George and Tony Hillerman. For transitions, I study Ursula K. LeGuin and Virginia Woolf. For bringing characters onstage and to life, Agatha Christie and Charles Dickens are hard to beat.
Mary Lee Woods: There are so many! I recently did a program for a local writers’ group on taking your writing to the next level where I discussed the difference between technically correct and “good” writing , and really using all the creative tools you have at your disposal to tell the story. As far as examples, I used: Characters – Nora Robers; Dialogue – Jennifer Crusie; Description – William Ken Kruger; Action – Janet Evanovich; and Humor – Laura Levine.
Anita Carter: For plot, Lisa Gardner…always. For a great fast paced comedy, Laura Levine. For dialogue, Julia Quinn. For emoton, Virginia Kantra. I also reference Hallie Ephon and Harlan Coben.