To master the art of writing we need to read. Whenever the words won’t flow, I grab my Kindle. Reading someone else’s story kickstarts my creativity, and like magic, I know exactly what I need to do in my WIP.
“Read” is the easiest writing tip, yet one of the most powerful. And here’s why.
READING BENEFITS OUR WRITING
- Reading strengthens our skills and storytelling abilities.
- Reading helps us become more persuasive, which is an essential skill when pitching a book to an agent, editor, producer, etc.
- Fiction reading helps us hone the skills to draw the reader into the story and engage the reader.
- Nonfiction reading helps us learn how to condense research into an authoritative proposal. And ultimately, into a storyline.
- Reading expands our vocabulary, improves grammar, and shows how to use words in context.
- Reading helps us find the right word!
READING IMPROVES BRAIN HEALTH
Narratives activate many parts of our brains. In a 2006 study published in the journal NeuroImage, researchers in Spain asked participants to read words with strong odor associations, along with neutral words, while their brains were being scanned by a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine.
Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life. — New York Times
Whenever participants read words like “perfume” and “coffee,” their primary olfactory cortex (the part of the brain that processes smell) lit up the fMRI machine. Words like “velvet” activated the sensory cortex, the emotional center of the brain. Researchers concluded that in certain cases, the brain can make no distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life. Pretty cool, right?
4 TIPS TO READ WITH A WRITER’S EYE
1. Look for the author’s persuasion tactics.
How does s/he draw you in?
How does s/he keep you focused and flipping pages?
What’s the author’s style, fast-pace or slow but intriguing?
Does the author have beautiful imagery or sparse, powerful description that rockets an image into your mind?
2. Take note of metaphors and analogies.
How did the metaphor enhance the image in your mind?
How often did the author use an analogy?
Where in the scene did the author use a metaphor/analogy?
Why did the author use a metaphor/analogy? Reread the scene without it. Did it strengthen or weaken the scene?
In a 2012 study, researchers from Emory University discovered how metaphors can access different regions of the brain.
New brain imaging research reveals that a region of the brain important for sensing texture through touch, the parietal operculum, is also activated when someone listens to a sentence with a textural metaphor. The same region is not activated when a similar sentence expressing the meaning of the metaphor is heard.
A metaphor like “he had leathery hands” activated the participants’ sensory cortex, while “he had strong hands” did nothing at all.
“We see that metaphors are engaging the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in sensory responses even though the metaphors are quite familiar,” says senior author Krish Sathian, MD, PhD, professor of neurology, rehabilitation medicine, and psychology at Emory University. “This result illustrates how we draw upon sensory experiences to achieve understanding of metaphorical language.”
3. Read with purpose.
As you read, study the different ways some writers tackle subjects, how they craft their sentences and employ story structure, and how they handle dialogue.
4. Recognize the author’s strengths (and weaknesses, but focus on strengths).
Other writers are unintentional mentors. When we read their work, they’re showing us a different way to tell a story—their way.
Ask, why am I drawn to this author? What’s the magic sauce that compels me to buy everything they write?
Is it how they string sentences together?
How they world-build?
Or all of the above?
I don’t know about you but I’m dying to jump back into the book I’m devouring. 🙂 What’s your favorite tip?
Wishing you a safe and happy Memorial Day! In between cookouts and family get-togethers, squeeze in time to read!
Looking for a new series to love?
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