I’ve always thought of reading as the other side of writing–sort of the Ying and Yang of the literary universe. I haven’t read a good author who hasn’t also been an avid reader. Of course, there’s always a first time, so let me know if you have met one of these scribes.
When my writing well is dry, I grab a book that someone else has toiled over and enjoy their labors. I’m looking for some ideas to refill my well, and in the meantime, I’m happy to be lost in a story. I don’t care what kind of story it is as long as it’s good.
So what do I need to make a good story?
A great hero who
-has inward and outward goals that I can easily identify.
-I care about, empathize with, and understand.
-is a bit larger-than-life, but I can still relate to because of a few flaws.
A vivid bad guy (or force) who
-is interesting and powerful enough to give the hero a run for the money.
-has clearly defined inward and outward goals that go right up against those of the good guy.
-is not 100% evil, so I have some sympathy for the character.
-gets it in the end. (Yes, I’m a sucker for the HEA ending)
A Setting that
-fits the story
-is vivid so that I can see, hear, and feel it around me as I read
Something exciting or poignant happens
-at or near the beginning of the story. (I love the end of Chapter 1 to make me turn the page)
Conflict. Conflict. Conflict that
-creates and builds drama, and nothing is ever “just hunky-dory.”
-is internal and wrenches the poor good guy’s heart or messes up his head terribly, or…
-is external and affects the good guy in his world (Nothing keeps me reading late into the night like “the monster’s-coming-any-minute kind of tale)
An End that
-wraps up the conflict and ties off any threads that have been woven into the story.
I’m in the middle of four books at this writing: Pont Neuf, The War of the Roses, The Falcon at the Portal, and Eating The Dinosaur (non-fiction). Obviously, I’m in need of some idea replenishing. What are you reading and do you also read to fill up that writing well?
Quote of the Week: “Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.”
― Lisa See, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan