Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reading: A Source of Inspiration?

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that most writers started out as avid readers. Somewhere along the way they felt the need to take the pen…or these days, the keyboard, into their own hands. Still, the desire to create our own tales does not mean we no longer wish to read. On the contrary, in some ways it makes us want to read all the more!

Reading can be an incredible way to learn the craft of writing. In fact, I found I became a much slower reader after I started writing in earnest. True, it’s a frustrating tradeoff for me, particularly because I was never much of a speed reader to begin with. But when I am following another author’s literary breadcrumbs I’m not just losing myself in their story, I’m also paying attention to how that story is told.

Writers learn so much about structure, plot, character development and more from reading the works of other writers. Of course, we all are gladly sucked along as the drama, joy and plot twists unfold. But eventually I’ll find myself stepping back and thinking about how they did that, and why. Where the clues were planted in a mystery or where the turning points came in a history.

I notice how they handle dialogue, and develop the action in ways that push the plot where they want it to go. I notice surprising events and interesting words…and sometimes I notice when things don’t go well and I’m pulled out of the story and forced against my will to wonder what the heck the author was thinking—never a good thing!

For instance, I think there should be a ban on the image of someone ‘shrugging’ out of a piece of clothing for ten to twenty years. Or at the very least you should only be allowed to ‘shrug’ once per book. Really, it’s overused. Not to mention ‘macadam’. Honestly, who says that??

You can see how a writer’s juices get stirred up from reading the work of others. Sometimes the urge is so great it feels like a buzz in your body you can’t shake until you put it into your own words. Sure, that empty page or blank screen can be intimidating, but a writer, I think, is already listening to the words in his or her head, calling to be placed upon that page.

Next week: Reading: A Cheap Excuse? 

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