I have been writing and rewriting parts of a novel for years in hopes of improving my writing and story telling. One story line within my novel has had me stumped. In newspaper articles, TV shows and radio stories I have sought solutions, but none have seemed spot on.
Last night I was reading a suspense thriller in bed—not the genre I usually read, and not the genre I am writing. But my sister suggested it, and I trust her judgment. The thriller started slowly, so slowly that I almost stopped reading. But then I read a particular scene, and from that point on I was hooked, turning page after page long past midnight.
I was enjoying the novel, of course, but as a writer I was also aware of how the author was constructing her book. In particular, the protagonist’s interior dialog fascinated me, how her thoughts sounded so real—or what I assumed was real since I have never been in a situation like that character’s. I need to try writing like this, I thought.
And then all of a sudden, while I was reading about a secondary character, I had one of those light bulb moments. In one incident I saw the germ of how I could develop my own story line.
Chills rippled through me. I had a plan!
Two aspects of this reading experience are important. One, in the back of my mind I was thinking about a particular writing problem. I was seeking ideas, so when I read the scene in the thriller, I could readily see a connection to my writing problem. To make an analogy, the seed fell into fertile ground.
Two, I wasn’t thinking specifically about my novel as I was reading the thriller. I was focused on the thriller. But my subconscious, always aware of my novel, made a connection. To make another analogy, I was like a mother focused on making dinner, but through my peripheral vision and hearing, aware of my child in the background.
So many good writing ideas have come to me while I am reading. I don’t read to learn how to write, but that’s what happens. I see the way another writer handles a writing problem and try that technique. Or subconsciously I make a connection between what I am reading and what I am writing and snatch the germ of an idea.
I find that I do more writing and better writing when I am reading. I am on vacation now, so in the past two weeks I have read three books—two novels and one memoir. The ideas keep coming!