Monday, December 3, 2012

Writers. What do you read?

Who wrote, "A Man who does not read is no better than a man who can't."
 I think it was Mark Twain.

I don't "appreciate" E readers. I prefer the feel and smell of ink and paper. Last week I sifted through some of my collection of children's books and on a whim looked up a couple of old (although in new condition) books on I was shocked to find a some of the hardbacks listed for $39.95, and $49.95.
Will E books appreciate in value? 
The experts say that more people are reading. I hope they choose print books.

So why, not how, does a writer read? I read for reference as well as pleasure. My shelves are smothered in non-fiction, how-to books. I regularly scan the local library's new books section for what ever "grabs me." Friends recommendations are follow up. Whatever I read, I look for inspiration, ideas and tips.

A friend recommended the author Nevada Barr who writes novels set in National Parks. I have visited many NP so I thought she would be a fun read. To my amazement she is an excellent descriptor of character.

Listen to this:
        "Barth was an African-American with short, black hair sprigged with white and smooth, dark skin. He'd been teetering on serious obesity....His eyes, a beautiful and startling feature, always had a mildly unsettling effect on Anna. they were clear gray-green, the sclera white almost to pale blue. They gave her the same sense she had when being studied by a blue-eyed Samoyed, that there were forces she could not completely understand at work behind them."
       In another setting she shows us more of Bart, "By the looks of what remained of his breakfast-three sausage biscuit wrappers and two of the cardboard packets used to serve up hash browns-he was competing for the heavyweight title.....A lot of green polyester-wool blend had been procured to cover the posterior....At his elbow was an ashtray half full of cold butts."
       I could pick him out in a crowd. Are your characters this vibrant?

        Another character she calls, "a middle-aged man from New Jersey posing as a southern-fried good old redneck."  Powerful.

Barr is equally powerful in showing place. Her heroine struggles "through an infestation of kudzu that smelled disconcertingly like grape Nehi. You stand still too long in this stuff and it'll grow right up your leg. Green shapes, once trees or slow hikers...... (it grows) up to 18" a day in summers."  Even if you are not from Southeast Texas or Louisiana, you get the feel for the area.

I credit Navada Barr with the quotations.

PLAGIARIZE to take and use (ideas, passages, etc.) from another's work, representing them as ones own.

So could a writer use Barr (or another author) for inspiration without plagiarizing? Analyze what you read. What makes strong contrast, "New Jersey posing as... redneck."  Bart's eyes compared to a blue-eyed Samoyed. And powerful visualization, kudzu smelling like Nehi and climbing up your leg.

Writers, dabble in reading for fun and whatever you can take away. Make notes on good writing, study it. Expand your experiences through reading.  Then incorporate into your writing. 

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