I like to think that I owe Enid Blyton for everything I know about reading, writing and books.
It all started when I was about 7 and my parents bought me some of Blyton’s Bedtime Stories collections. I read the books over and over, I still remember some of the stories until now.
When I was about 9, my mother told me how she used to read Blyton’s writing too. She then introduced me to my first Blyton’s series: Famous Five. The series were like an ecstasy for me. I could not put it down until I was finished and when I was finished, I was always craving for more.
Unfortunately, I was living in an isolated village of Sulawesi, Indonesia at that time. It was extremely difficult for me (or my parents) to get more Blyton’s books. Because of that, I like to think that I extended my childhood years into my early teens by keep on reading Blyton’s books up until I was about 14.
The one thing that I learn from Famous Five, Malory Towers, St. Clare’s, Naughtiest Girl and even Faraway Tree is that Enid Blyton put so much thought in building characters.
Take Famous Five, for example. You have the leader, Julian, who is always wise and cold-headed. You have a loyal sidekick, Dick, who will always there to help. You have the loving, feminine girly-girl, Anne, who is a great cook. You have the useful and wildly-loved, Timmy the dog. And of course, Blyton’s master piece, in my opinion, George/Georgina. It was fascinating for me to encounter a character who can send a secretive SOS message through her way of signing a letter – George or Georgina.
Blyton’s books and way of sculpting characters drive me to become the reader and writer that I am now. When I read a book, I tend to dissect each and every single character in my mind. I imagine the way they dress, the way they talk, the way they walk, basically the way the live. (This is also why I refuse to watch a based-on-a-novel-movie before I actually read the novel.) Believe it or not, I even apply the same imagination to authors of non-fiction books (I am usually curious to know where the authors go to school, what they do, where they live, whether they have families, etc).
In terms of writing, especially fiction, this meticulous effort on sculpting a character has not yet give me any advantage. I tend to spend so much time in building a back story for my characters that I lost my train of thoughts on the plot. It has been a bad habit for me. Interestingly, now that I am older, I could see that it also affect Blyton and her books. When I read St. Clare’s, Malory Towers, and Naughtiest Girl, one series after the other, I could see that they basically have similar main plot. In fact, she received a lot of criticism because of this (use this as a guideline).
I guess the biggest difference between my writings and Blyton’s is that hers got published while I tend to hide mine. I am, however, working hard to discover my own George/Georgina so I can build a whole new world for him/her and then turn it upside down. I still do, ambitiously, aspire to be a fiction writer someday. Hopefully that “someday” will turn into courage that will push me to finish my writing, get it into a publisher and get published.
Thanks to this week‘s Writing Challenge for making me revisit my thoughts on Enid Blyton as well as the way I write.