DAY 5 PROMPT: How do the things you read impact your writing? What do you love to read? What do you avoid reading at all costs? How would your writing change if you read more of the things you typically avoid?
I prefer to read non-fiction, but I also enjoy a good fiction book that takes me into a world different from my own. I keep a list of books as I read them, so I quickly looked at the last two years (35 books). I’m not surprised to see that I read twice as much non-fiction as fiction.
I belong to a book club and I count on my peers to be sure that I balance my penchant for non-fiction with good fiction. There’s nothing I like better than to finish a book and sigh: “This is the best book I’ve read in a long time. I wish there was more.”
I like to read well-crafted books whether fiction or non-fiction. What do I mean by a well-crafted book? It goes without saying that sentence structure is effortless and the story line flows, but what makes a good book good? Characters who fascinate. A story rich in detail.
Take the last two books read by our book club. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Kreuger (Fiction) and Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides (Non-fiction). Both were set in the time period that I grew up in; I related to characters and place and recalled historical events cited in both. Each was cleverly written, with cliff-hangers that kept my interest to the very end.
Books that are long and pedantic bore me to tears. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction (like Watership Down) or non-fiction (Do Not Ask What Good We Do). And if it’s something I have to slog through, I give up on it. And please don’t tell me about the great book that is number 8 in a series but I have to read all seven books to understand what’s really going on. Each serial book should stand alone.
How might my writing change if I read something unlike the norm for me? If I read more fiction I might find that there’s a novel inside me. I don’t have time for that just yet!
Before writing came reading. And before reading came being read to.
In the days before television, my family would turn off the radio and read out loud at night. As a five year old, I sat on Daddy’s lap while Mother read, chapter by chapter, night after night: How Green Was My Valley, The Yearling, Old Yellar. I learned to convert the words to images in my head and see the story unfold. I would fall asleep under the spell of the words.
I think I was in the fifth grade when Sue Williams and I were sharing Bobbsey Twins books (mine) and Nancy Drew mysteries (hers). We decided, Sue and I, that we would write a book together. We named it “The Mistery of the Garden Gate.” Alas, we were stumped after the title and an opening paragraph.
It must have been seventh grade when I was given a locking five-year diary for a Christmas present. I tried to remember to write something every day, only to find that my life was pretty boring. When pre-teen angst set in, I pulled out my diary and wrote about confused feelings and made lists of ‘our’ music: Rock and Roll! My mother spouted back my list of songs at breakfast one day, so I knew she was reading my diary! I quit writing for awhile. In high school I learned Gregg shorthand so I could keep my diary secret. I knew my mother couldn’t decipher what I wrote; but then sometimes, I couldn’t either!
By fifteen I had my first steady boyfriend. Doug Walding gave me a two pound, heart-shaped box of candy each Valentines’ day. I kept scraps of paper hidden in the prettiest heart box.
I was a sassy teenager (said my mother) so I went silent in my critiques of whatever bothered me. I wrote a manifesto of how I would be when I grew up, listing ten points on which I would differ from her, and sealed the deal with a declaration that I would read this in ten years to see how well I had done. At age 24 I found that little note while cleaning out my former bedroom where I would store boxes as I left to join my husband (Doug Walding) at his Army post. I read the Note to Self exactly ten years to the date of when it was written. Spooky, huh!
Enough about ‘how it started.’ Tomorrow I’ll write about influences on my writing style.