Start Writing Fiction: Learning From Reading
The best way to learn fiction writing is by writing. To understand fiction writing you need to read. Yes, you need to read novels and short stories in your genre(s) and out of your genre(s). Read for pleasure the first time around. The second time around, read to learn. Study how the author created their fictional story. It will help you strengthen your writing.
Reading for Pleasure
If you ever took an English class, you know it can take the joy out of reading for fun. That is why your first read should be fun and pleasurable. You get more out of a story when you relax, than tensing up over an analytical paper.
Let the story take you into another world. Enjoy its surroundings, get close to the characters, let the story sweep you off your feet. Have fun; you learn more when you are having fun.
Reading to Learn
Now the fun is over. Put the book away for a few days. Ponder everything in your mind. If you have a separate journal for the stories you read, get it out. Write everything about the story. Pour your feelings out on paper.
After a few days, you have time to think and enjoy. Now it is time to study. Get your notebook out on the story you read. Reread what you wrote. Do you still feel the same or have your feelings changed? What else can we look at?
- How effective were the characters (main ones and minor ones)?
- How effective was the setting? How is the setting conveyed and why does it matter?
- How effective was the plot?
- Did the language suit the story? Any fresh or surprising ways they used the language?
- How effective was the dialogue? Does it take away from the story or add to it?
- How effective was the description?
- How effective were the scenes (action, love, fight, etc.)?
- Did the story come to life in your mind’s eye?
- How would you improve the story?
- What works for the story?
- What doesn’t work for the story?
- How is the story structured?
- How is the point of view?
- How is the sentence structure?
- Were you able to know what happened next or were you on the edge of your seat?
- Any unclear or confusing parts?
- Was there enough conflict and interest?
Have you read other stories from the same author? If so, summarize and analyze those stories. Look at the similarities and the differences between them. Look at when they wrote the stories, then look up the author. What was going on in the author’s life when they wrote the stories? Do the stories reflect what went on?
Look up the author’s biography. Learn what makes them tick. See what other stories they have written and if they are working on anything new. Also, how does the author come up with their ideas? What were their past jobs? What type of education do they have? How did the author become an author?
Why Reading is Important to Your Writing
We learn from what we enjoy and do repeatably. Reading helps with comprehension and memory. Reading is healthy for you. And that is not all, reading helps:
- With Vocabulary: Our vocabulary improves when we read. Reading helps us improve our word usage in our stories. It also helps with the use of syntax, grammar, punctuation, and style.
- Improving Our Concentration: Reading helps us improve our concentration. In a world where we rush all the time, reading slows us down, helps us focus on the here and now.
- With Writing Styles: From a journalist to a fiction writer, each person has a unique writing style. Writing for Coffee House Writers differs from writing in medical journals.
- Writing: Reading stories in your genres helps you to write in those genres.
In the comments below (100 to 300 words), tell us what you are reading. Why are your reading it, and how is it influencing your writing? Or, what books have you read that influenced your writing? How did they?
This is the end of the Start Writing Fiction Series. In the comments below share what you have taken away from the series of articles. Plus, share with us what fictional story you are working on.