As a reader I sometimes try to figure out why I like to read certain types of books and why I enjoy different stories/themes/styles. I think understanding myself as a reader helps me to not only think more critically but also helps me to remain focused as a writer.
Yes, the unconscious mind brings forth the ideas but I believe the conscious mind focuses the ideas and allows me to understand myself as a person and as a creature of nature.
What have I learned? A few things. I know I like mystery (not the stereotypical who done it...just mystery) because I like to figure things out and to see things unfold...kind of like life itself.
I enjoy competition. The kind of competition where two forces go at each other and I can witness the detailed process. For example, individual battles, magic confrontations, or any two or more factions competing. I figure I enjoy this because I have a need to prove myself and I have always tried to be the best at what I do (not that this is good or bad).
Other things I like in a novel are strength of mind and body, deep emotional loss or gain, perserverence, and the outcast character. Just by knowing this about me you might actually be able to figure out a little of what type of person I am...
Anybody else think about what they like and why? And can it help you as a writer?
February 13th, 2003, 04:54 AM
I think knowing what you like in a novel would have to help you as a writer, a lot of authors say they try to write the sort of novels they would like to read and that sounds like as good an idea for writing as any I've heard.
As for what I like in a book. You need to have characters that you care about, otherwise you're likely to stop reading the book, let's face it if you don't care about them you don't really care what happens to them.
(I'm one of those rare people who stop reading a book if I don't like it. I walk out of movies too, but not very often!:D)
I like something that keeps you guessing and surprises you as well.
I recently read hearts in atlantis by Stephen King and in one bit he talks about how some books have great stories but not such great writing, and others have great writing but they're not really about anything, and how rare it is to find a book that has both a great story and great writing.
That's what I like, something with a great story and great writing. :)
February 13th, 2003, 03:53 PM
[QUOTE] I recently read hearts in atlantis by Stephen King and in one bit he talks about how some books have great stories but not such great writing, and others have great writing but they're not really about anything, and how rare it is to find a book that has both a great story and great writing. [QUOTE]
Exactly! Why can't the great writers write about interesting & complex subject matter? Too often the pulitzer prize type authors confine themselves to semi-complex themes and character analysis.
This is fine but why not combine this type of writing with an exciting/entertaining story? I often find myself admiring the writing style and degree of understanding a great author displays. But at the same time I find myself losing interest after awhile or never really getting into it at all.
I'm currently reading Anna Karenina, a novel considered by some to be of exceptional quality. The writing flows, the in depth character analysis is highly provocative, and I certainly respect the author's work.
However, the story only marginally holds my interest. This may be a bad example since it was written in a different era where people's interests were different. Nevertheless, its my example as to what I am looking for. If there was more action and more events that brought forth my emotional investment then I would be unable to put the book down. As it is I only admire the work instead of "loving" it.
February 13th, 2003, 05:55 PM
One of my favourite authors is Bernard Cornwell, for me his novel Stonehenge really fell into the category of a great story with great writing, from the interviews I've read of his he isn't interested in writing for a booker or pulitzer, he just wants to tell an entertaining story in an entertaining way.
I think its important to decide what you want to achieve when you write a book. If it's to tell an entertaining story in an entertaining way then give it a shot, if on the other hand you want to win prizes and be recognised as a literary great give that a shot. However in my limited experience (And it is limited so please feel free to correct me on this next point) I'm not so sure that you can do both, I've always held the opinion that the truly great literary minds (Those that win bookers and the respect of academics) are only really appreciated by academics and people who concern themselves with things like bookers and pulitzers.
So knowing as you do that you really appreciate the kind of work Anna Karenina does, but would like a little more action has to help you with your own work.
Personally the reason I write is try and tell (myself as well as the audience) a story that is going to entertain and I honestly don't think I've ever even day dreamed about winning prizes of any descripition - not that I'm even published yet - simply being able to pay the bills writing would be more than enough recognition for me.
February 14th, 2003, 08:00 AM
I (like many other readers I imagine) like different books for different reasons. I like books that open my mind to new concepts a lot, and books that aren't predictable.
I try to write stories that do the same and are still gripping and entertaining.
In short I write the sort of stories I like to read myself.
However, our tastes obviously all differ and what I may consider to be a masterpiece may bore the crap out of someone else.
I also steer away from gung-ho good guys and cliches as much as possible.
Most of my characters aren't very black and white, more shades of grey. The "good guys" are often the lesser of two evils.
Of course my age and personal experiences and philosophy influence my work as it does with all writers etc.
The problem I think is with what publishers can make the most moeny with. My work is a little cultish and probably not mainstream enough for most tastes.
February 15th, 2003, 12:39 PM
I've said it before, I'll say it again - something that will make me think. There are different ways this can be achieved - brilliant plotting, brilliant character, or brilliant insight. Few books achieve that IMHO.
February 15th, 2003, 08:53 PM
One author that really makes me think is Robert A. Heinlein. The book A Stranger in a Strange Land in particular really made me think.
He had great writing and excellent prose, or so I thought.