Monday, August 31, 2009

Why Read?

Vicki here to say that I read a lot, I always have.

I may have mentioned before that I live in a one-channel universe so I don’t watch TV. I go to a few movies, but considering the dreck that’s out there, not often.

(Aside – loved Julie and Julia. I saw it at a weekday matinee and the theatre was packed. I noticed on the way out that the audience was almost all middle-aged women. Who woulda thunk – make a movie for middle-aged women and they’ll come. On second thought, keep that to yourself. Better middle-aged women sit at home reading mystery novels.)

I have talked to some writers who say that when they are writing they do not read. They don’t want to be influenced by anyone else’s style. Aside from the fact that I am always working on one book or another, unless I am travelling, I believe that reading keeps my creative juices flowing.

I am currently reading a book by a well-known writer, and enjoying it very much (it may be a candidate for the annual Type M for Murder top 5 of the year list). It is written in the many-person POV we talked about a few weeks ago. As it happens I am working on the final draft (final that is, before my editor gets hold of it) of Smith and Winters # 4 right now, which is written, as always, in multi-person POV.

When I read, I confess I always have one ear open asking myself why is this working or why isn’t this working. Reading this book last night, I realized that one of my POV characters (not a re-occurring character) wasn’t giving us enough background so that the reader could judge her actions. If you are going to put someone’s POV front and centre in your book, you had better have a darn good reason to do so.
I jotted a note on the pad I keep beside me and this morning settled in to learn something about that character’s motivation.

Am I copying, stealing someone’s ideas? Of course not. If I revised my MS to include a female one-legged Falkland Island War vet who collects Nazi memorabilia and stumbles upon the REAL story behind the death of Adolph Hitler then maybe. (Okay, there isn’t such a person in the book I'm reading but you get the idea). What I am doing is allowing myself to observe good writing and I can then decide if that technique belongs in my book, and if so am I using it to the best of my ability.

A question for the writers out there – do you read books of the same style you write when you’re working on a book?

And for the readers – do you ever think Writer A has been overly influenced by Writer B? If so, is it a problem?

3 comments:

LINDA M. FAULKNER said...

I'm always reading. And I especially like to read the type of story I'm writing--when I'm writing. No, I don't "steal" from the other author.

Probably because if I like the author, I always get sucked in as a reader. ALWAYS. It's very hard for me to get into "edit" mode with my favorite authors.

But, like you, I get technique ideas. Such as: Why did that line of dialogue make me laugh out loud? Or: What about that exchange made me cry?

I look behind the words to the technique. I haven't achieved perfection yet...

Donis Casey said...

Same with me, Linda. I'll steal a good technique without shame, if I can figure it out.

Deardeedle said...

J&J - also a great book. By a great blogger. Not only for the middle aged - but seriously inspiring for those nearing the 30 :]