Saturday, March 2, 2024

2024 - March - Wise Words, Part 2 - READ

  This is the second of a three-part series.

Last month's topic was WRITE. This month the topic is READ. So—

Can reading help you write better, create better stories, create believable story people? Yes, it can.

The subconscious works most effectively when provided with abundant and varying input. It is vital that the subconscious collects such information because storytelling is about the juxtaposition of ideas, knowledge, facts, and fiction. 

So, fill your subconscious file cabinets with information that's available from books. Not only the facts but also fantasies and genre classics. Delve into the experiences of others with biographies. Look into histories and documentaries. Read outside your genre or interest comfort zones.

Newspapers, magazines, and other news outlets provide condensed articles and essays on dangers and horrors of crimes and wars, as well as the extremes of passion and folly. Such things make a writer more empathetic, aware, and, yes, they even offer enlightenment.

When it come to creating believable characters, reading allows for observation and insight into the human condition and how people act and react in given situations. So base story characters in "a truth" and their stories will have verisimilitude.

Do read works by good writers who are well-known. This aids in subconsciously absorbing the power of prose—i.e. grammar, punctuation, paragraphing, syntax, vocabulary, and style. Such things are not to be duplicated but must contribute to a writer's own unique "voice."

Reading good stories, whether long or short, helps a writer subconsciously absorb what story is, its structure, the flow of plot and theme, and so much more.

So does reading have any downside? Of course. Often reading great works is intimidating. It is futile for a novice writer to compare themselves to the greats. Yet keep in mind that those greats succeeded through perseverance and learning the craft and art of storytelling.

Imitation of what's being read is also a danger. Imitating may be a form of flattery, but it's also detrimental to the development of one's own writing style. 

Another downside is that reading might lead to procrastination. For instance, it may be more fun to read others' works then polishing one's own writing.

To become a writer, reading is fundamental. Read 100 books in the genre you intend to write in. Among those 100 books will be the ones you cannot forget as well as the ones you had to force yourself to read. In the doing, you'll find similarities and differences. You'll also discern what made the one book a keeper and the other a book worth putting in the trash bin.

So—feed your subconscious. Read, read, read.

# # #