Lessons From Writers – David Eddings

Every book you read can teach you something to help improve your writing from pitfalls to avoid to examples to follow, and in this series of blog posts I’m going to talk about the authors that have had the most impact on me and my writing, and what I took away from them. Today is David Eddings.

PawnIf you don’t know, David Eddings wrote several popular fantasy series first by himself and later with his wife, Leigh, sharing a co-author credit. He also says his wife deserves the co-author credit for all his writings. Like me, David Eddings grew up near the Puget Sound and it definitively showed in his writing. It rains a lot in his books, and his characters are always worrying about the weather. If you didn’t know it, the Seattle region from October through May is almost always gray skies and drizzling rain.

I was introduced to David Eddings by my mother. I was in the sixth grade and we had just moved back to South Hill, Washington. My dad was in the Air Force and we had just spend the last two-and-a-half years in Alamagordo, New Mexico. Previously we had lived in Washington and my parents had rented out the house they owned in 1South Hill while we were exiled (as I thought of it) to New Mexico. When we moved back, I thought my life was back on track and I was finally free of that hot, dry, and very dust state. Only I had friends in New Mexico, and when I moved back I learned my best friend had in Washington had moved away, and the only kid in the neighborhood I didn’t get along with before moving. I was getting picked on at school and was miserable, so my mom, knowing I had just gotten into the Lord of the Rings, went to the local Waldonbooks and asked the clerk what a good fantasy book would be. And he recommended ‘Pawn of Prophecy’.

‘Pawn of Prophecy’ would probably be counted as Young Adult these days, and it and its sequels were the perfect books for a lonely, preteen boy. You follow Garion as he goes from anonymous scullion to saving the world in the five book ‘Belgariad’ series. It’s a fun series with great characters, and is one of the best quest-driven fantasy series I have ever read as you follow Garion and his companions on a journey around their world.

Castle of WizardryI learned two lessons in writing from David Eddings and the first was dialogue. David Eddings was a master at witty, bantering dialogue. His characters have great personality and they display them in their words, often to humorous effect. My poor DM (Dungeon Master or the guy who runs a Roleplaying Game session, such as D&D) can attest to my love of banter and mocking my enemies as I fight them, mocking his enemies as they try and reveal their evil plans, and it’s all because of David Eddings. His heroes always make light in the face of their enemies with a fun bravado worthy of a hero of an epic story.

Great dialogue makes your characters come alive and feel like real, fleshed out people. And if you can make people believe your characters are real, guess what, they come to care about them. They want your characters to succeed, to be happy, their rooting for them. An emotional connection is formed, an investment that will keep your readers coming back for more. You can have the idea for the most amazing, thought-provoking, never-been-done story, but if your character dialogue is flat and boring, people might never make it far enough into your book to discover this fact.

imagesThe second lesson I learned is the love of the journey. David Eddings is most known for two universes the Belgariad/Mallorean (consisting of two pentalogies, two stand-alone novels, and a book on the world building) and the Elenium/Tamuli (consisting of two trilogies). The four series are all quests stories with our heroes traveling across the known world in the hunt of their goals. They travel, they see the world, and experience diverse cultures. When you open a David Eddings novel there’s a map, and by the time the series is over, the heroes will have traveled through every land depicted, sharing you the world he’s created, and doing so in a very logical manner. It doesn’t feel forced as his characters somehow travel through ever local for the sake of it, his story plotting was very well done.

So a lot of his novels are about the journey. What the characters experience and learn as they travel in the pursuit of their goals. They make you want to go out and wander through the world and just experience life. His books had a sense of adventure and life to them that made you want to keep reading and find out what happens next. With a book, it’s not the destination that really matters, it’s how you get your characters to that point. If you don’t write them a great journey, your readers will not stay on the road with them. So give them the best journey you can, full of interesting obstacles, clever enemies, and dangers for them to overcome.

6025089321_ea41a3f02d_zYour journey doesn’t have to be crossing the known world, it could be as simple as going to the local store, navigating through politics, exploring an excavated ruin, traversing the minutiae of the legal system, or even a trip through the shattered psyche of your character. Make it interesting and keep your readers engaged!

Great dialogue and a great journey are what I took away from David Eddings work. Make your characters seem real and give them an interesting journey and your readers will stick with you to the end, then will look forward to the next book you write. And that’s what all of us struggling writers are looking for, fans who will love the worlds we share with them.

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12 thoughts on “Lessons From Writers – David Eddings”

  1. Just saw the David Eddings post from a random retweet in my twitter feed. Similarly, I discovered the Belgariad around 5th grade, but unfortunately, never finished it. I might be feeling just nostalgic enough to purchase Book One again, thanks to your post. Good luck w/ the novel. Keep writing!
    -Steve

    1. The Belgariad and its sequel the Mallorean are like old friends to me. I reread them about once a year. Novel’s going well. Thanks!

  2. What’s really weird is that the second book in the original series, “Queen of Sorcery”, was the first one that I read. After more than 20 years, I just obtained the audio-book versions, and just started “Queen of Sorcery”. Having just listened to “Pawn of Prophesy”, and experienced a kind of deja-vu, remembering the time in my childhood when I first experienced this book, the impact in had on my psyche, etc, the impact of those first words, and remembering the intial impact that first reading of Eddings had on me. I think it was a combination of here was an author who really got my male pre-teen agnst and here was an author who had some insight to offer into pre-teen girls. That was probaly a result of co-authoring with his wife, and really comes through in his portrayal of his female characters.

    1. Nice to hear. Yeah, he had a profound effect on me when I read it. I still really enjoy those characters. I’m listening to Sorceress of Darshiva’s audiobook right now. 🙂

  3. I loved these books as a teen. Even though I don’t write in the same genre, I learned so much from Eddings about dialogue and character development. He is a master of witty banter!

  4. I really appreciate you writing this post! While many of my fellow geeky friends had read/were reading Tolkien, I was reading Eddings. I happened on Pawn of Prophecy when I started community college straight out of high school. I ‘devoured’ the rest of the series in months! I then read his Belgareth the Sorcerer and that was a milestone for me as it was the thickest book I’d ever read at that point (711 pages) before HP and The Order of the Phoenix many years later. I’ve learned much about world-building because of Eddings and his wife. Belgareth and his daughter ‘Poli’ are two of my favorite characters in fiction! The different gods, cultures and religions in his books helped create the blueprint for my anthropomorphic cat epic fantasy series (6 short stories published thus far & counting). I mourned his death and he has a place on my blog list of beloved writers. Cheers for taking me down memory lane!

  5. “My poor DM (Dungeon Master or the guy who runs a Roleplaying Game session, such as D&D) can attest to my love of banter and mocking my enemies as I fight them, mocking his enemies as they try and reveal their evil plans, and it’s all because of David Eddings. His heroes always make light in the face of their enemies with a fun bravado worthy of a hero of an epic story.” … ha ha! I love it!

    Terrific post … your intelligence, sense of humor, and love of the fantasy genre really shines through.

    As an aside, I visited Washington for the first time about a year ago. My son is looking at DigiPen, and I was very excited to have an excuse to fly to Seattle. While we were there, we had one full day without rain. We were very excited.

  6. I enjoyed this article and am now feeling nostalgic. I’ve replaced all the books in my Belgariad collection at least once, and a few of the Mallorean (they were very well loved). My rereads have spread out to once every three years or so. But, after this, a couple of weeks of indulgence may be just around the corner. Your fondness for the stories is obvious, love it.

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