The Writing Allstars – Oscar Wilde

Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. (The Soul of Man)

I have to confess that, while Oscar Wilde has been incredibly influential, both in regards to style and content, I did not first fall for him while reading. In fact, I didn’t even realize it was him I’d fallen for. For the longest time I thought the object of my affection was the handsome and debonair Rupert Everett (a casting choice of which, I believe, Wilde would definitely have approved) and from the tender age of 17 would watch and re-watch An Ideal Husband and The Importance of being Earnest, marvelling at how the harshest of life’s truths were made humorous through brilliant dialogue. Wilde never hesitated to confront the ironies which occur simply from being human, and he did so with grace and wit. His plays, and ultimately his novel, opened my eyes to a new way of writing.

The truth is rarely pure and never simple. (The Importance of Being Earnest)

When I finally realized that it was Wilde I’d fallen for all those years ago, I jumped right in to The Picture of Dorian Gray and I was overcome. Just as he did with his plays, Wilde is able to draw out the darkness that resides in the human heart only here, it is treated with considerably less humour. I was mesmerized by the transformation of Dorian from an innocent and impressionable young man to that of a hardened and violent scoundrel. It was fascinating, for me, to see the machinations of his mind, his thoughts changing as he fell further under the influence of another. It was in my following Dorian down his rabbit hole that I first realized that the development of a character, the inner workings of their soul as shown on the canvas of their thoughts, was what really interested me. I wanted to know the whys rather than the whos or hows of a story.

Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic. (Dorian Gray)

My decision to pursue literary fiction over genre fiction is directly related to my love affair with Oscar Wilde. His ability to write about the secret desires that lie in the heart of humanity, the darkness that we wrestle with every day, is exceptional. The fact that he can do so with sparkling wit, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, and graciousness is a wonder. I try to take a page from Wilde’s book when I sit down to write a story. Find something deep, common to all but hidden away, and bring it to the light in such a way that, no matter the ending, we feel connected to one another in a revelatory moment.

Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing. (Dorian Gray)

Because of Wilde, I realized there was more than one way to tell a story. Because of Wilde I became obsessed with finding ways to marry heartache and humor. Because of Wilde I fell in love with Poe and Plath. Because of Oscar Wilde I am the writer I am today.


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