Louis L'Amour is one of my favorite authors. He had no pretensions to literature or fine writing. He did not try to craft a "significant" book or write the "Great American Novel." He was a storyteller and every book was like sitting around a campfire listening to an old man tell a tale of the past. Each book reaches readers immediately and pulls them through the story that is at the same time familiar yet fascinatingly new.
That's the kind of author I want to be. I don't want to win awards and be lauded by all the "right people," I want to be read. Here's a portion from L'Amour's book The Man from Skibbereen that struck me very powerfully:
Far off, a few lights appeared.
Fort Laramie, a few nearby ranches. How warm and welcoming a house light looks to a lonely night-riding man! Someday with luck he would walk into such a house, strike a match, lift the chimney and touch the flame to the wick of his own lamp, sit down in his own house. He would smell the fire smells, the warm cooking smells, and he would stretch out his legs under his table with a faint sigh. He would rest then... he would dream, and he would rise from time to time to add a log or to stir the coals of his own fire.
For a time now he had been passing lighted windows, but always in the solitary houses of other men. He slowed his horse. He was near a house and a man was leaving the stable carrying a lantern and a milk pail. He was walking slowly to the house with a small halo of light about his feet, a homely halo, not of heaven this, but of peace, of home.
His door would creak open, it would close behind him, and the night would be dark again, but a resting dark. The man would sit down, relax tired muscles, and reach for a newspaper or book, or he would talk in low tones to his wife.
"Let us not lose this," Cris muttered aloud, "let us not lose this God, for there is no greater beauty, no better hour."
Just a simple scene in the middle of the action, but so evocative. Its the kind of powerful scene someone who has always known comfort and ease couldn't even imagine, but begins to understand through L'Amour's words.
That's how to tell a story.