What good books can teach us

(This was scheduled to post Sunday morning. I have no idea why it didn’t.)

Have you ever picked up a book and realized from the first page that this was going to be a great story? And with every page turned, you are in a little deeper until only a fire alarm going off over your head can bring you back to reality?

I have two reactions to such books. One, I can’t put it down and find myself reading in snatches between chores, staying up to late at night, fumbling for the book first thing in the morning.

That’s the reader part of me.

The writer part analyzes, trying to figure out how the heck the author does it. It isn’t just the characters, or just the dialog or just the plot. It’s all of it, woven so tightly together you can’t pick it apart.

It’s using every sense so a scene in the woods makes me feel I’m there, hearing the night birds, smelling the cedar, watching the clouds scud along the sky obscuring the moon. I hear the grass crackling under my feet, feel the cold air kissing my cheek.

It’s one thing to be told to use all five senses. It’s another to see how a master does it.

How do you describe characters? The author tells us what the characters look like, as we all do. We know they are teenager girls in a boarding school. But when the author describes their dorm room, he tells us more about these girls that straightout describing could ever do by telling us what posters they have over their beds. In one paragraph, we know those girls.

As a reader, I admire this without thinking too deeply about why it moves me.

As a writer, I feel a sense of jealousy. I know that no matter how hard I try to follow “the rules” and no matter how long I write or how many books I write, I am never going to be as good as this author. Or many, many authors, to be honest.

It makes me want to quit writing, like a child whose crayon scribbles can never be as good as Matisse.

But I can’t quit because that is who I am.

So I take this as inspiration and strive to be just a little better.

Maybe some day I will be almost as good. But I’ll never know if I quit in childish pique because I’m not there yet.








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