Thursday, September 27, 2012

WHAT CAN YOU LEARN ABOUT WRITING FROM READING?

Vonnie Davis
I love reading romance. Now that I’m writing full-time, I only get to read a book a week. However, for forty or more years, I used to read two to three, so as you can imagine I’ve forgotten more characters, emotional angst and plots than there are stars in the sky.

Yet a few have remained in my memory. And those few, I read over and over to study why. Why did they make an impression?

I’m currently reading Linda Howard’s Mackenzie’s Mountain, a romance I first read twelve years ago and once nearly every year since. I read it last week and as soon as I finished, I started it over again, hunting for the “whys” of its appeal. There are point of view shifts within the paragraph. Dated philosophies. Said tags galore (my pet peeve). Yet, for me, the book creates all the warm fuzzies I want from romance: The strong alpha male and the plucky heroine who goes toe-to-toe with him.

Nora Roberts’ MacGreagor series is a favorite, too. She taught me the value of secondary characters, of weaving family into the romance.

Jill Shalvis is a master at internal dialogue. I’ve learned a lot from her writings, too. Her description of Wade in Slow Heat as he leans in an open car door to talk to the heroine is a lesson in itself. Thank you, Jill. 

While I also enjoy historical romance, some are so shallow in research that the story could be set in any era or any country. I love the stunning details of historical research that transport me almost from the first paragraph. Beth Trissel, Susan Macatee and Claire Ashgrove excel.

In her Plum Series, Janet Evanovitch taught me ways to write humor. I’ve read every installment, and every time I do, I sleep fitfully. I think it bothers my romantic mind that she won’t or can’t choose between Morelli and Ranger. Go figure.

Do you enjoy learning the craft of writing from other authors? What things have you learned in your pleasure time of reading?

For one lucky commentor, you may have your choice of an eBook of either Storm's Interlude or Those Violet Eyes. 

 

 

23 comments:

Margo Hoornstra said...

Always excellent information, Vonnie. Thank you for the lesson.

Vonnie Davis said...

I study sentence composition, punctuation, how the author evokes feelings. When a passage makes my heart race, I read it over and over noting word choice, pacing. All the things that have captured my attention. And when a book turns me off, I study that, too.

Tommy/Melinda said...

Vonnie,

You always have great post. The information is wonderful. I love it when a story makes me take notice. I love reading a lot and do so as much as I can.

Thank you for teaching me something today.

Melinda

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks for stopping by today. It's always great hearing from you.

Susan Macatee said...

Thanks so much for the compliment, Vonnie! I started reading romance later in life, but learned a lot in my early years from reading mysteries, suspense and horror novels, sci-fi too. I've read too many authors to mention and don't have particular favorites, but I started reading historical romance as a young mother. Sort of a diversion from child care. I love historical romances that transport me to another era with realistic details and Beth Trissel is one of my favorites to read too. I love time travel as well, and Beth excels at that.

Sarah Grimm said...

I love a story that won't let me go! I, too, will reread parts to try and determine what makes it 'speak' to me.

As for Janet...I loved her Stephanie Plumb series - right up until I met her and she told the room full of people that Stephanie would NEVER choose. Where's the character growth is she never changes or chooses?

Linda Howard is one of my favorite authors - and Mackenzie's Mountain is on my keeper shelf.

Great post, Vonnie

Calisa Rhose said...

My learning as I read is subtle, Vonnie. So subtle, in fact, that I don't know I'm learning until I write something that reminds me of something I read, or more the way it's written resonates.

Vonnie Davis said...

Susan, your Erin's Rebel took me back home. We lived near Gettysburg and hiking over the battlefield and studying troop movements was a favorite Sunday afternoon tradition for the kids and me.

Vonnie Davis said...

Sarah, I'm such a woman's libber. Can't stand for a guy to tell me what to do and yet...and yet...Wolf can tell Mary what to do and it "sivers my timbers." So how does Linda Howard do that? I think it's the slow reveal of Wolf's character...I think. I'm still studying on how she can please an old feminist in such a manner.

Liz Flaherty said...

Great post, Vonnie. I think I do learn as I read, but it's subliminal--I don't know I'm doing it, which makes the reading all the more fun.

Vonnie Davis said...

Calisa, leaning is learning whether it's subtle or overt. Good for you.

Vonnie Davis said...

Liz, reading has always been my favorite thing to do, well next to snuggling with hubby or hugging hte grandkids.

Karyn Good said...

I absolutely do! I study the writers I love to is what I can do in own writing to improve it. It sounds weird, but I think by paying attention to the 'voice' of others writers you develop a sense of how you want to sound and you begin to create your own.

Jannine Gallant said...

For me, a keeper book is one that makes me feel a special, indescribable way. Warm and fuzzy is close. I think it has to do more with the tone and voice than anything else. Smart lady, learning so much about our craft from reading.

Vonnie Davis said...

Oh, Karyn, it took me a while before I developed my own voice. I was so stiff and full of myself, initially. I blame it on all those years as a technical writer.

Vonnie Davis said...

I love that warm and fuzzy feeling, too, Jannine. I want to be swept away and charmed and awed. Few writers can do that, but when they do? It's magic.

Jerri Hines said...

Enjoyed your post. I love to read and have a whole list of authors I greatly enjoy reading. I can think of nothing I enjoy more than to spend my days reading a good book.

Vonnie Davis said...

Oh, Jerri, I am soooo with you on that. Calvin loves his TV. I can easily do without, but don't even think about taking my books.

Sandra Dailey said...

I can't believe there's a Linda Howard book I don't own. Off to amazon when I'm done here.
Morelli vs. Ranger also drives me crazy.
I try to learn from the romances I read, starting with that big question, 'What made this book appealing to the publisher?' followed by hundreds more questions.

Vonnie Davis said...

There are 4 more books about Wolf and Mary's children. All winners, too. Thanks for stopping by, Sandra.

LisaRayns said...

Great post, Vonnie! I love the way Colleen Thompson weaves suspense into her books.

Vonnie Davis said...

Colleen Thompson? Hmmm...let me go check her out. Thanks!!!

Tiffany N. York said...

I've been most influenced by Jennifer Crusie. To me, she is the Goddess of Snappy Dialogue; although each time I read her I feel I'm not worthy.

Imo, it's obvious Stephanie will wind up with Morrelli. lol