As storytellers, Kelly Link and Aimee Bender each bring a distinctive sense of punch and personality to their writing. Both tackling short stories, they are able to create unique worlds within a few pages that draw in their readers and deliver fresh perspectives through the strangest of stories. On one side we have Link, who crafts stories leaving no detail to chance; then we have Bender, whose pieces are elaborated, understandable, yet vague all at the same time. Though each of these authors contribute individualized stylistic techniques to the writing world, I have been hooked by one of their books from the very beginning as I strive to make my writing like hers with the same simplicity and beauty that she brings to every story.
Kelly Link's Pretty Monsters provides readers with ten imaginative stories, each more creative than the last. One of the main elements of Link's writing that seems to fascinate readers is her ability to present an obvious problem in each story while forcing the reader to dig deeper to a different, underlying problem. While many writers have done this, the topics of truth that Link touches are hard to find, yet thought-provoking when found. In Link's The Faery Handbag, readers are presented with a tale in which they are told from the very beginning that everything is a lie. This fact alone forces readers to question where they are to draw their reality from, as the narrator must ask herself this same question throughout the story. As Grandmother Zofia masks the hardships of their lives through the creation of an alternate world, readers are left wondering if they do the same. Link has essentially created two storylines in one: one where we follow the goings-on of the narrator and another where we question what the Baldeziwurlekistan Houdini-like village is in our lives (Link 139-163).
[...] Bender does not try to over complicate her characters or stories; instead, she presents them in pages where there is no judgment presented, even for the most questionable of characters. In “Debbieland,” for example, Bender presents as the narrator, who admittedly tormented Debbie in previous years. While we as readers may expect to have judgment passed on the narrator through Bender's writing, the voice presents the story with the same bottomless hatred that they showed when they knew Debbie years ago. [...]
[...] As shown in “Death Watch” and other stories in Willful Creatures, Bender allows her readers to have freedom and room to breathe in her stories as she employs detail in the elegance of her prose instead of the density of her plotline. The simplicity of Bender's prose and the diction that she chooses to use makes also an effortless leap into what many would consider prose poetry. Each line reads with lyrical and rhythmic smoothness that is present in the majority of prose poetry today. [...]
[...] Though I do believe that Kelly Link starts each story with brilliant and creative ideas, the way that she goes about writing them pushes the story idea to the background and forces readers to get caught up in the detail of the prose. The elements of style and quality that I took from Aimee Bender's Willful Creatures, on the other hand, are plentiful and have already found their way into my writing. In terms of the aesthetic quality of Bender's book, the design presents each story as a beautiful and individually crafted piece where even the spacing allows the readers to slow down and take each paragraph in as a separate, important entity. [...]
[...] Along with these elaborate plotlines, however, comes a style of writing that is one in the same: detailed. While Link's lavish details provide a comprehensive image of what she is trying to portray in each story, it is immediately excessive. Link leaves virtually no detail up for the reader's own interpretation as every story seems over drawn with unnecessary detail. Link's Surfer,” for example, delivers a sixty-page story with the action at the beginning and end of the story, slipping in the middle 40 pages as an elaborate examination of the narrator's character and his surroundings. [...]
using our reader.