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Diana Wynne Jones
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The Author > Why DWJ's books appeal to all ages

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message 1: by Prancu (new)

Prancu | 2 comments I've read Diana Wynne Jones' books since I discovered Howl's Moving Castle years ago and I've loved every book I've read. I'm a senior in college now and my research project is to analyze the writing technique of DWJ. Specifically, why DWJ's books can appeal to children as well as adults. So does anyone have any thoughts about this? What is it about her books that appeal to all ages?


message 2: by Aida (new)

Aida (taffymyametalumi) Maybe because the stories are thrilling enough for children and difficult enough for adults? Even though her books are mainly for a younger audience, I've never felt like she simplified anything. So adults don't feel like she's talking down to them.


message 3: by Prancu (new)

Prancu | 2 comments I agree with both of you. When you're younger, it's simple enough that you can still understand and enjoy her books. If you read them again when you're older, you can catch minute details and deeper meanings that you never realized were there when you were younger.

Fiona, I'm interested in what you said about how she writes for a wide age range. Actually, the second part of my research is to look into what changes in her writing when she's specifically writer towards older readers as compared to her younger children books.

I'm currently reading Dark Lord of Derkholm but I just read Enchanted Glass last week. DWJ's writing style/voice is the same in both, but there is a much more mature feeling in Derkholm. I'm trying to analyze if this goes beyond just having a more mature plot. If there is some technique behind this.

Also, it's still shelved in the "juvenile" section and younger readers still seem to enjoy it, even though it is definitely meant for an older audience than books like Enchanted Glass. Is there some specific technique that Diana used in all her books (i.e. her books for younger children as well as her adult books) to make even her 'adult' books readable and enjoyed by younger children? Is there something more than what was already mentioned?


message 4: by Chris (new)

Chris (calmgrove) Prancu wrote: "I've read Diana Wynne Jones' books since I discovered Howl's Moving Castle years ago and I've loved every book I've read. I'm a senior in college now and my research project is to analyze the writi..."

The experiences of reading works by an author is always personal: within my limited circle I've spoken to friends who've read the odd DWJ title and have thought them OK but wouldn't read another, while on the other hand there are online fans who clearly can't get enough, even though they aren't always good at expressing exactly why they like the books other than they might feature a protagonist they empathise with.

So, what is it about her books that appeal to all ages? First, they must have a leading character the reader can identify with. For young readers, this must surely be the over-riding reason: can they imagine themselves in the same role that the young heroine or hero takes? This is largely the appeal of traditional fairytales, and the attraction that the fairytale feel of, say, YA vampire tales has for many readers under the age of (and this is a guess here) 30 (I'm the other side of this cut-off point).

Second, they often appeal to that demographic much beloved by publishers, the 'child-in-us'. In other words, older readers who are fans can remember vividly what it feels like to be that child who is plunged headlong into a magical situation, who might discover an unknown ability or who recalls being bullied by others who seemed to have it in for you personally. And this remembrance predisposes them to go along with the often illogical sequence of events in a DWJ novel because, emotionally, there was often little logic as to why they themselves were plunged into that weird situation, wished themselves supernaturally gifted or were victimised for no good reason.

Thirdly, nerdy adults like me might like the little details that add colour to her narratives and characterisations. Details like puns, or hidden scholarly references to literature or mythology, or confessions about confusing childhood circumstances that adults sympathise with (dyslexia or technophobia, say, both of which Diana suffered from, either from childhood or as a woman 'of a certain age').

These three points are not the whole answer to your question, Prancu, but I hope they may help! You also make a point about target audiences. Here in the UK Diana's books were published by a range of publishing firms in imprints that presumably aimed for different readerships. The Derkholm books were not published by the same company that issued the Chrestomanci stories, and Deep Secret was aimed at a different readership from its sequel The Merlin Conspiracy, and both were also issued by different imprints. I think that she chose her UK publishers carefully so that they would market it for specific age groups. Of course, diehard DWJ fans will buy her books whoever they are published by!


message 5: by Zoe (new)

Zoe | 15 comments Possibly this is too late for your project, but I would suggest reading her own essays on her writing, which have recently been collected in a book called Reflections. I think she expresses quite well how she writes and why her books therefore appeal more to younger readers as well as older readers who aren't put off by writing that doesn't necessarily conform to the literary trends of the day. She concentrates on telling a good story and telling it well. Although I read quite widely, including literary fiction as well as non-fiction and genre fiction, I definitely appreciated what she had to say about the general quality of adult writing and how many adults writing for adults dumb it down so that the adults can follow!


message 6: by Chris (new)

Chris (calmgrove) Zoe wrote: "Possibly this is too late for your project, but I would suggest reading her own essays on her writing, which have recently been collected in a book called Reflections. I think she expresses quite w..."

I must get this book! I've seen it mentioned so many times but have been too lazy to chase it up, but this is surely a wake-up call!


message 7: by Zoe (new)

Zoe | 15 comments I couldn't wait for it to come out in PB so shelled out for the hardcover. It was worth it, highly recommended!


message 8: by Chris (new)

Chris (calmgrove) Zoe wrote: "I couldn't wait for it to come out in PB so shelled out for the hardcover. It was worth it, highly recommended!"

Just like you, Zoe, I couldn't wait, so I've forked out the £16 for the hardback (though I see it's the US edition from Greenwillow). Of course, what do I do but start at the end, reading the appreciations by two of her sons; they certainly gave me an insight into what stimulated her fiction writing. Also, is it just me? I do like browsing indexes to see what names and themes come up: a fascinating way to gain a quick overview. Anyhow, looking forward to reading the rest.


message 9: by Chris (last edited Nov 26, 2012 06:28AM) (new)

Chris (calmgrove) Zoe wrote: "Possibly this is too late for your project, but I would suggest reading her own essays on her writing, which have recently been collected in a book called Reflections. I think she expresses quite w..."

Now that I've completed Reflections On the Magic of Writing my first impressions very positive: she comes over just as friendly and approachable as her novels, and though key experiences and anecdotes are repeated quite a lot (these are writings from many different periods and sources, so it's not surprising) there is a fantastic range of insights into her personality, inspirations and sheer creativity. I'm now working on a review that will do her writings justice.

So, Prancu, I can certainly echo what Zoe says about the book and its value for your study. If it's not too late, that is.


message 10: by Aamrah (new)

Aamrah | 2 comments This is ages later and probably useless. But one of the reasons Diana Wynne Jones' books appealed to me was the humour. And the situations the characters get into are improbable, but at the same time it is easy to envision oneself in them, because DWJ writes in such a smooth, well-paced, un-awkward way.
On a separate note, Prancu, it's impressive that your research project is on Diana Wynne Jones. Most people decide on authors like Jane Austen, which is kind of generic.


message 11: by Scurra (new)

Scurra | 14 comments Missed this thread entirely, but for me it is her magnificent plotting that I love the most (then again, I'm somewhere down the Asperger's scale...) Pretty much every loose end turns out to be tied up perfectly, and details that seemed irrelevant - but rarely glaring - are almost always essential to the resolution. It's like reading a "classic" detective novel, where all the clues are given to you but somehow you miss them until the dénouement, making you want to read it again straight away to see if she played fair, and I have rarely been let down.

And what I really love about DWJ is that even on a revisit there are things you miss (pretty much each time I reread Hexwood I discover some new wrinkle in the construction) which keeps them fresh. It's still hard for me to properly credit that there won't be any more. :(


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