I’ve always loved reading. As a kid, I’d get lost for days in stories that swept me away to distant lands or plunged me into a murky abyss.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized how pivotal those books were in molding me into the writer I am today. Let’s look at four ways reading has shaped our work.
#1 & 2: Good and Evil
My deep belief in heroes spawned from the books I read as a child. Think back to your favorite fables and novels. There was always conflict, and that struggle was typically between a hero and a villain. I credit these stories for giving me a real sense of right and wrong.
One of my favorite series of all time is the Icewind Dale Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore. Not only have I read the series countless times, Salvatore implanted in me the idea of fantastic heroes who would do anything to vanquish evil and protect each other. Characters like Wulfgar the barbarian, Drizzt the dark elf ranger and Bruenor the dwarf help shape every character I write about today.
#3 & 4: Love and Hate
Millions of readers flock to novels that portray the timeless tug-of-war between love and hate. It’s a theme that easily permeates writing. Many of us learned to be hopeless romantics because of a book. We’ve also experienced the deepest and darkest hate through the interaction of characters on a page.
Pride and Prejudice is still my gold standard. Not only is the writing timeless and elegant, but the back and forth of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley and Jane, Lydia and Mr. Wickham, perfectly paint the portrait of the timeless pull of love and hate. Austen’s tale reminds me to keep an open mind, always be on the lookout for love, and avoid hate and prejudice.
It Never Leaves Us
Reading at a young age shapes us into the writers we become later in life. It still amazes me when I find a similarity in my work to a book I read years ago. I didn’t know it was there and then—POW!—it hits me.
That influence will never go away. It’s a stamp on our subconscious that subtly shapes the ebb and flow of our dialogue, the rise and fall of our conflict, and the push and pull of our characters.
To become better writers maybe we should look back instead of searching forward. It’s like a time capsule, buried for years and waiting for us to pull it out and discover its secrets. Let’s all grab a shovel. Who knows what we might unearth…
How has reading shaped you?
For the next fifteen minutes, write in the style of a book that had a profound effect on your writing. You might even use the same theme or characters.
Post your practice in the comments section below and please provide feedback for your peers.