Rule #10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
I’ve read this way since I was twelve years old. At least, I’ve tried. When I love something in a book, I’m automatically curious why. I wanted to know why I loved that scene, that line, that character, long before I realized I wanted to be a writer. When a person loves something about a book, usually that means the author did something well. Pull it apart to see why it worked. If a scene just gripped you so thoroughly you couldn’t put the book down, look at why. Clipped, backloaded sentences? High personal stakes? Action where the timing was just dead-on?
I cannot get over the voice in The Fault in Our Stars. It’s funny, sarcastic, intelligent, and humble. I’m still working on breaking down how John Green did that, but frankness is a part of it. Hazel is honest with the reader about both love and death. I had no idea honesty about difficult things could be that impacting.
What Alice Forgot paints a relationship with effortless, breathtaking strokes. A tiny detail here, just a glimpse of an early scene in their marriage there. Liane Moriarty pulls together a complete, gorgeous picture of a marriage with tiny heartbreaking details. This book takes showing not telling to a whole new level. Seeing which details she uses, and how effective they are even without the summary and lines of telling that so many writers use to ground the reader, is such a powerful way to explore that concept.
In Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution, I connected particularly with the main character. She’s skeptical and introspective, which I enjoyed, but after thinking about it, what drew me so much to her is her passion for music. I love music, but it’s particularly the way she talks about it, thinks with it, needs it, that gets me. The way she feels about music, I feel about writing. Giving your characters passions is a powerful thing. We all have deep desires. Giving them to your characters opens up a strong connection point with your readers.
So when you love something in a book, pause to think about why and jot it down. Process it. Use it. Doing so will change how you write- and how you read.