To Write, You Must Also Read!

Posted on January 19, 2007

I’m a voracious reader. Have been since I was four and read – aloud – all of the graffiti I found on bathroom stalls when my mom took me into a public restroom, much to her dismay and the entertainment of other restroom patrons.

I love reading Jewish fiction, but I shy away from it when I’m actively writing. I don’t want it to influence my current writing too much. But I’m grateful when I find writers whose writing I can learn from, and whose genres don’t overlap quite so much.

My most recent love is with Earlene Fowler’s mysteries, which my friend TL turned me onto. She does just amazing description. Not in the literary fiction sense where a description of a sunrise can go on and on and on and on for paragraphs about the blending of the colors and the glory of the light and you can hear the symphony in the backround and blah blah blah. I tend to skip over that sort of description.

No, Ms. Fowler does an amazing job because she shows her readers what her characters look like, what the weather in Arkansas or Central California or Kentucky looks like, without ever telling you. I’ve read all but one of her books, checked them out from the library. Now I have to start buying them because, unlike most plot-driven mysteries, I want to read these again and again, feel the words on my lips and taste the character’s emotions on my tongue. They are clearly character-driven mysteries, and I look forward to each visit with Benni and Gabe and Dove and Elvia and Emory and Hud with delicious anticipation, even if I already know “whodunit.”

As much as I love mysteries, I’m not such a big fan of sci-fi or fantasy. Maybe a few of the really well-written ones, but mostly, I leave that to Husby. He’s a big sci-fi/fantasy buff.

Except just the other day, he left a genre-crossing sci-fi/thriller on his pillow and I took a look at it. I was intrigued initially because one of the characters shares the same name as someone I know, and it’s an unusual name so it caught my attention. I read the first page, curious. Then I went on to read the first chapter. Now I’m hooked.

The book is the first in “The Dresden Files” series, by Jim Butcher. A few times, I’ve found myself wanting to edit out a few too many instances of “so” or change the order of a couple of words, but largely I enjoy his easy-going narrative, the sarcastic wit, the protagonist’s honest humanity. And I can learn from that, too. (I’m now aware that “The Dresden Files” has been made into a TV series on the Sci-Fi channel. Husby plans to watch; I might sneak a peek.)

There’s nothing better after a long day of struggling with my own manuscript to step into another world created by a good writer, to visit with their characters and enjoy their use of language and allow myself to laugh and cry and love along with them.


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