I’m one of those people who want immediate results and measurable growth from every book I choose to invest my time and resources. My shelves are full of non-fiction literature. It helps me gain a better understanding of writing, leadership, history, theology and marketing.
I used to read fiction just for entertainment. Now I understand the values it can bring for me as a writer.
Here are some quick tips before we get into the article:
1. Highlight the passages that are so flawlessly written that you’ like either to reread them or write something similar to it.
2. Keep a reading journal. It’ll encourage you to analyze the book accurately rather than simply consume it.
3. Avoid retelling the plot. Focus on the writer’s language and techniques. If you’re able to adapt it as your own, your writing skills will improve greatly.
Whether you’re a student writing academic papers, a beginner who’s just taking a shot at this craft, or an experienced blogger who makes money from content creating, you should read fiction. There’re five reasons for that:
1. Reading can provide you with inspiration.
I decided to start writing short stories after I’d read Émile Zola’s “Germinal”. The masterful way in which the author captured the miners’ story immediately brought me into the novel. And the book kept me hooked till the very last word.
We can’t remain indifferent when we read prose or poetry created by the lord of the words. We experience various feelings, from joy to tears, from empathy to hatred. Our emotions break free.
Unfortunately, some of the novels were so dull that I stopped reading them after a few chapters.
If you don’t want to repeat my mistakes, choose fictional works by prominent writers. Ernest Hemingway, William Shakespeare, Scott Fitzgerald, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and other legends of the literary world won’t disappoint you.
2. You get a bunch of neat language techniques to imitate.
Reading enriches your vocabulary. Each time you sit down to read, you’re developing a stronger grasp of language and how to work with words. Thus, you can express your ideas more clearly.
Reading can teach you to compose powerful sentences. Fiction doesn’t accept the boring, straightforward way to convey information like most students usually do in college paper writing. Analyze the passages you like best. What makes them sound interesting and unique?
It’s hard to imagine a novel without dialogues. The readers want to hear people speak, so that they may understand what causes their actions and where it might lead. The harmonic interplay of narration and dialogue create scenes that engage the audience.
When analyzing dialogues, focus on:
- Speech peculiarities (the unique catch-phrases or dialect words that characters use)
- Integration (the way the dialogue is implemented in the scene).
While reading provides you tools to imitate, it’s important not to linger on this stage. The final goal of copying the works of others is to develop your own voice and style.
3. You learn to season your plot.
If you read (or watched the filmed version of the book) Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, then you know what is a hardboiled plot. Fiction writers add twists and mystery into their stories. These are the elements of foreshadowing.
It’s easier to see how an author used it on your second read of a book. Then you can spot cause-and-effect relationships.
The most popular devices to empower you plot are the following:
- Chekhov’s Gun is advice given to other writers by Anton Chekhov: “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” If you introduce a physical object early in the story, show its significance later.
- Symbolism helps to create an atmosphere. Like black ravens circling in the sky before the tragedy.
So, take your favorite novel, read one-fourth of the content, and write around 5 bullet points about how the plot is set up. Make your own writing more persuasive developing the dynamics of your narration.
4. You understand how to create vivid images.
The best writers employ all five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell) to make their story true to life.
Fiction writers use inventive sensory depictions. They replace sensory clichés with creative descriptions.
Instead of saying: “she sang awful”, they’d rather say: “her voice sounded like a ghost in the old castle”. It’s actually an illustration of a well-known “show, don’t tell” technique. You probably used it in your academic essay writing.
To understand how it works, open any novel on the page full of sensory descriptions. Write out all the types of the senses used there. For each type, make a list of the examples of how it creates atmosphere, describes the emotions of the characters, or performs any other function.
5. You discover how to mix humor into your writing.
Humor pleases everyone. The success of injecting it in prose fiction depends on the creative style of the author and the purpose of comedy in a particular scene.
Humor is used to:
- arouse a reader’s interest in a story
- sustain attention
- help the reader connect with characters
- create images in reader’s mind
- make the story more memorable
- make the reader feel good.
Humor in fiction takes the forms of irony, satire, hyperbole, understatement, incongruity, wordplay, etc.
To learn to be funny with words, read “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger or “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain. Identify literary devices utilized to bring humor to these works.
When you start adding humor to your own literary piece, make sure you don’t overuse it.
Reading lets you understand why successful novels work. Once you discover how famous authors dealt/deal with writing, you can apply the same techniques to your essays, blog posts, or novels. Read more fiction to refine your writing style!
About The Author
This article was written by Michelle Brooks, a writer and blogger who specializes in education, freelance and self-development.