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On reading

An interesting thought came up while in Writers Group last week.  One person said she doesn’t read while she is trying to create.  She doesn’t want to influence what she is writing.  I read all the time, whether I am writing or not.  But the difference is I believe that there are only a few stories in existence that get re-told in a myriad of ways.  Which means I could take the exact same story premise hand it out to five different people and get five different stories.  Everything that I write is colored by my life experiences as well as what I might have read.  It is vastly different that Stephen King’s life experiences.  So even if I wrote a story about a haunted hotel inhabited by a writer and his family, it would never be The Shining.  But reading Stephen King introduces me in how to build tension, how to construct a paragraph to lead the reader down a certain path.  How to construct characters and plots.  I feel like the best writers are avid readers.  That is how you study your craft.  You read books and put your butt in a chair and write.  It’s the easiest hardest thing in the world.

Of course avid reading does have it’s drawbacks, my favorite author writes about werewolves.  Her werewolves are what I consider to be the perfect version.  I am fairly confident that I will not write werewolves as a character because I would only be aping what she has done.  Vampires however I have yet to find what I feel is the definitive telling.  The advantage to avid reading is though that I also have been known to anger write.  Read a book so bad that I get angry that either they messed up how they told what could have been a good story or get angry that they are published and I am not and go write some more.

The thing I’ve noticed though, typically when you look up what authors are reading yes they read in their genre but they also read a wide variety beyond that as well.  I can’t help but think that the variety helps them create fuller worlds and more believable characters.  What have you read lately?


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