Lately, Iâ€™ve been reading a lot more. Mostly, I stick to contemporary fictionâ€”especially in the genres I write in. This helps me in two ways. First, I get a look at the competition. And second, I see whatâ€™s hot and whatâ€™s not as far as reader tastes go. But thereâ€™s another benefit and, depending on what you buy, you can take advantage of another writerâ€™s research.
But wait, you say. I thought writers just make crap up and hope they can fool you. Well, thatâ€™s trueâ€”for bad writers. Good ones take the time to learn about the world they are constructing and endow their stories with a rich undertone that immerses the protagonistâ€”and the reader. Hereâ€™s an example. I just finished a novel about a journalist who gets caught up in a conspiracy that involves soulless corporate giants and an assassin with a love of greasy food. To be honest, the book isnâ€™t great. Though the story is well constructed, I felt the principal characters lacked believability. In other words, they just didnâ€™t ring true. Nevertheless, I am so glad I read the book. Hereâ€™s why.
The Only Source of Knowledge Is Experience
Einstein said that, and I happen to agree wholeheartedly. The author of the book in question is a former journalist and, when it comes to dogged reporters on a beat, he knows what heâ€™s talking about. I really enjoyed learning about the mindset of the journalist, as well as hearing the faint praise and jeering commentary about the profession as a whole. The author has also peppered the story with discussions of the power of big media and print vs. online. Iâ€™m not saying that after reading the book I could go off and write my own novel about a journalist/detective. But I could certainly create a secondary character whoâ€™s a journalist and make them sound authentic. Experience counts.
Reading for Pleasure and Learning
When I was a kid, I always compartmentalized my reading. There were books I read to learn and those I devoured for pleasure. But it was rare that a book served both ends. I say nuts to that! Providing you pick good material, every book can be a learning experience. Often when I read, I like to pore over the language. This is what helps me to write better. But I am also aware of the setting and the jargon a character uses. Recently, I reviewed a horror collection. There was one, in particular, I fell in love withâ€”â€œThe Corpse Kingâ€ by Tim Curran. Now, I could be wrong, but I am of the opinion that the author researched the hell out of the period and in particular about how resurrectionists plied their trade. This is an excellent example of a story that is pleasurable to read and teaches you something in the bargain.
Apply Your Knowledge
Iâ€™ve read a lot of nonfiction books about the demonic and possession. Iâ€™m not saying Iâ€™m an expert, but I do bring that background to the stories I write. The last thing I want is for someone in the know to read my work and dismiss it as uninformed drivel. And this is apart from the writing. Readers either like my work, or they donâ€™t. I just donâ€™t want to be accused of ignorance when I could have just as easily researched before I wrote. And neither should you! Remember, writing isnâ€™t just about the wordsâ€”itâ€™s about whatâ€™s behind them. Have fun.