Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Learning by Reading: What Have You Learned?

Writers know that one of the best places to learn about the craft is by reading other books and watching how other writers do it. Taking notice of the story arc, plot conflicts, characterization, and dialogue all helps both give you ideas and also show you how it’s done.

I was recently reading a book by Irish author Cathy Kelly and thinking to myself that in the story, there are some things she might have missed, and that the start of the book was slow and quite unbelievable. But I stuck with it and I’m still reading it and it’s holding my attention—well. I’ve been asking myself constantly what it is that keeps my attention, then, if the beginning of the book wasn’t that good, and I was annoyed with some of the characters and what they did? It’s taken me a while to figure it out and by the time I did, I realized that Kelly had solved a lot of the things that made me suspend disbelief. So what was it that kept me?

Characterization. Her characters are interesting, warm people, and I like them--and they all have depth. Kelly is a master at this—it’s why her plots can almost be secondary. She, like fellow Irish author Maeve Binchy, is a writer who specializes in likable, warm, and deep characters that we want to know and stay with. It was a little thing to realize, but a good one: characters should be deep and readers should like them, and Cathy Kelly has shown me how.

What book are you reading right now, and what is at least one thing you learned from it?


Tina Lynn said...

I'm reading Graceling. I don't know that it has taught me much yet. I don't want to say I'm having trouble getting through it, because I am uber busy, but if it were say - Hunger Games - it wouldn't matter how busy I was. I would sneak in excerpts between taxes or check runs. I guess it has taught me that the hook is so important. There is more of an overall shroud of mystery with Graceling, but with Hunger Games it was life-or-death from the very beginning and you Just. Can't. Put. It. Down. I want to write that story.

melane said...

I'll second what Tina Lynn said about Hunger Games and even Catching Fire. I was consumed with finishing them. Right now I'm reading Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick and it's starting to hook me the same way. I didn't write one word in my WIP yesterday because I was reading it every chance I could. It has great characters.

Sierra Godfrey said...

So ladies what is it you think you've learned, writing-wise, from Hush Hush or Hunger Games? Is it the amazing hook or the charachters...?

Tina Lynn said...

Both on Hunger Games. I immediately felt invested in what happened to Katniss. But the non-stop action kept me reading, and reading, and reading.

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