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Is it possible that I’m the last person alive to hear of this best-selling author?

I hope that title caught your attention. I just discovered a wonderful writer. It happened last week when I was browsing around the “New Fiction” section at the nearest branch of our public library system and caught sight of the name “Terry Pratchett.”

Long story short — I left the library half an hour later with three of the most bizarre comic fantasy novels I’ve run onto in a long time.

To my surprise, Pratchett has only been publishing his warped humor about Discworld for something more than 20 years. Ah, well, I’ve often told my wife that I’m usually the last person in the world to hear about anything. When I worked in a newspaper newsroom, I was volunteered to be the person responsible for putting newsroom news in the in-house newsletter. (Enough news in that sentence for you?) It was an odd choice by the managing editor — I was almost always the last person to hear news of what was going on in the newsroom to pass it along to the employee newsletter.

Pardon me while I pause just to be amazed. I used the word “news” or some form of it nine times in that paragraph.

You see, reading Pratchett’s stuff is not only fun, but it will make you aware of the fun and functionality in words. Much of his humor, from what I’ve read so far, depends on puns and wordplay. For example, I ran onto a scene in one of his early Discworld books (“Sourcery”) involving two wizards being outclassed by a strange young child wizard. One of the wizards, named Carding, touches the child’s staff and is knocked across the room. His fellow wizard, named Spelter, helps him up and makes sure he’s all right. Then they have the following conversation about the child, named Coin, and his staff:

“Don’t touch his staff,” muttered Carding.”
“I’ll remember, um, not to,” said Spelter firmly. “What did it feel like?”
“Have you ever been bitten by a viper?”
“In that case you’ll understand exactly what it felt like.”
“It wasn’t like a snake bit at all.”

I also want to share with you Pratchett’s own comments about the Discworld series and his work as a writer. This is a comment he has near the top of his website:

“Welcome to the Discworld. It started out as a parody of all the fantasy that was around in the big boom of the early ’80s, then turned into a satire on just about everything, and even I don’t know what it is now. I do know that in that time there’s been at least four people promoted as ‘new Terry Pratchetts’ so for all I know I may not even still be me.”

So get right out there and find some Terry Pratchett books and read them. The second best way to learn how to write well is to read a lot. (The first best way, of course, is to write a lot.) Go forth and read and enjoy Pratchett’s delightfully twisted, humorous work.
[tags]Terry Pratchett, Discworld, comic fantasy novels, advice for new writers, writing tips at garyspeer.com[/tags]

One Response to “Is it possible that I’m the last person alive to hear of this best-selling author?”

  1. polly peirce says:

    Hi Gary! Congratulations on discovering one of the most popular writers this side of the Atlantic. He’s great isn’t he?

    I first came across his work in an operating room in 1989 – the anaesthesiologist was reading it while we plodded away doing the hard stuff!

    Next my ex-husband discovered it and escaped our failing relationship into Pratchet’s very odd world, more recently I introduced our eldest son to Him and he too was enthralled! He’s like a rash…

    I believe that this fabulous author has recently been struck with the modern day horror of horrors, ie Alhzeimer’s Condition. Watch out for some terrific stuff as the early stages of this condition result in enormous conflicts as the sufferers are usually very aware that something has changed.

    Take care and enjoy Discworld; it’s timeless…