I was recently talking with friends about books, and they expressed their love and excitement for the book turned movie, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Now I’ll admit it wasn’t my favorite book, and I don’t plan on seeing the movie. But this discussion opened my eyes to the fact that I’ve become a critical reader since I’ve been writing. The writer in me acts like a speed bump when I read—the pure enjoyment of books is replaced with a writer’s critique.
While crafting my own works, finding flaws, pulling my hair and crying that I can’t get it right, I wind up groaning when I read a published author doing what I’m trying to avoid. It goes to show that story trumps great writing, but it also goes to show that we ALL have our own tastes. If your story appeals to the majority, then you will be a great success as an author.
One of my favorite books is The Book Thief by Mark Zusak, which was also made into a movie but I don’t know the release date. You can read a review I wrote of The Book Thief on Helium. I love Mr. Zusak’s writing—his words—along with the fact that this book shows the hardships Germans went through during the Third Reich. It’s narrated by Death and one thing it says is, “I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases…or I’d throw them over my shoulder. It was only the children I carried in my arms.” When a writer can express something so beautiful and horrific at the same time they get high kudos from me.
Writers are told to show not tell—bring the reader into the story instead of telling them about it. This is one of my biggest weaknesses. Don’t introduce things into a story that doesn’t move the story along. Create flawed characters, not unrealistic ones readers can’t connect to. These are just a few things I’ve learned in my quest to become a better writer. So when I read books, my writer’s critique comes out, leaving me disappointed in books that might veer away from the writing rules—rules that are there to help a story thrive.
I miss the days where I could just sit and read a story without my inner red pen coming out, but I have to admit it helps me in my own writing endeavors.
P.S. I believe reading The Book Thief, and living in Germany the past five months, gave me a huge appreciation and understanding of history, today’s Germany and my country.
What’s one of your favorite books?