Reader Friday: Tense and Person

Reader Friday: Tense and Person

TenseI’m seeing more and more books written in present tense. Do you like it? Why or why not?

Does it matter whether it’s first or third person?

 

 

 

 


Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.”

Reader Friday: Writers as Readers

Reader Friday: Writers as Readers

Last week’s answers got me thinking. Most everyone said they saw no reason to finish a book they weren’t enjoying, for a variety of reasons. Someone told me that once you’re a writer, you can never read the same way again.

As a writer, do you think you’re more critical than before you took up the craft? Did you finish more “unfinishable” books when you were “only” a reader? Has your definition of a “unfinishable” book changed?

How and Why Reading Improves Writing

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?

Story rhythm?

Snappy dialogue?

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?

FOR TODAY ONLY, all four Grafton County thrillers are on sale!

MARRED 99c
CLEAVED 99c
SCATHED $1.99
RACKED $1.99

 

What’s on Your Nightstand?

There’s a saying that goes, “Where you’ll be five years from now depends on the people you meet, the conversations you have, and the books you read”. I don’t know who said it, but I say it holds truth. Especially books you read… like the ones on your nightstand.

I’ve always been a reader. Not sure if the right adjective is voracious, avid, or anal, but I love to read. It’s in my blood, and the blood I begat, and the blood I married. My family members are all readers. So are most of my friends and colleagues.

My dad got lost for hours reading everything from newspapers to classics. My sister, who’s a lioness of a reader, said if my dad were alive when the internet arrived, we’d never have gotten him off it. My mum held a Masters in English Lit, and she wrote her thesis on Thomas Hardy. To no surprise, mum was a teacher who loved to teach kids to love to read.

Our kids were very young when they were born, so it was easy for my wife and I to mould them into our reading cult. I turned Aesop’s Fables into “stupid stories” to get bedtime bladder-relieving belly laughs from Emily and Alan. Rita, my wife, sensibly read Harry Potter to them so convincingly that they hated the movies because they didn’t sound like their mom’s character versions.

Now our kids are all growed up. Thankfully, they turned out all right because they’d rather read than work, and that’s proven because both took leave from their jobs and went back to university. At least this time, mom and dad aren’t paying.

Now mom and dad are empty nesters who love nothing better than hang around and read. Rita and I read a lot. We have so many books that our insurance provider required a structural engineer to approve our book cases for fear of someone being killed in a catastrophic collapse.

Seriously, though, we have serious stuff on our nightstands. But as close as Rita and I have been during our 37 married years, we have significantly different reading interests. Same with our kids—Emily, 32 and Alan, 30—and that’s a good thing because we all keep on reading.

My wife and kids stepped up for this Kill Zone piece. I polled them on their nightstands. I asked them to list five books they recently read, were currently reading, or had purchased and intended to read next (the TBR list). Here’s five reads on each of the Rodgers family nightstands.

Garry Rodgers

  1. Podcasting For Dummies — Tee Morris / Chuck Tomasi (Take note, Sue Coletta) 🙂
  2. Profiles in Folly – History’s Worst Decisions & Why They Went Wrong — Alan Axelrod
  3. Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind — Yuval Noah Harari
  4. Fortunate Son — John Fogerty
  5. The Cobra — Frederick Forsyth (re-read)

Rita Rodgers

  1. The Blue Moth of Morning — Poems by P.C. Vandall (Rita’s friend)
  2. If It Bleeds — Stephen King
  3. The Goldfinch — Donna Tartt
  4. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine — Gail Honeyman
  5. The Alice Network — Kate Quinn

Emily Rodgers

  1. The Flames — Leonard Cohen
  2. The Story of the Human Body — Daniel E. Lieberman
  3. Saints for All Seasons — John J. Delaney
  4. Ten Poems for Difficult Times — Roger Housden
  5. The Bible

Alan Rodgers

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People — Stephen R. Covey
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People — Dale Carnegie
  3. The Daily Stoic — Ryan Holiday
  4. Rogue Trader — Andy Hoare
  5. Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — Susanna Clarke

That’s the Rodgers reads. What about you Kill Zoners? Let’s read what TKZ contributors and followers have on the nightstands. Go ahead and list five books you’ve recently read, are now reading, or have on the TBR list. That includes paper, digital, or however you like to read.

———

Garry Rodgers is a retired murder cop with a second career as a guy no one wanted an appointment with — Dr. Death, the coroner. Now Garry passes himself off as an indie crime writer who checks his Amazon sales stats every half hour.

Speaking of crime writing, Garry Rodgers has six books out in a twelve part Based-On-True-Crime series. Garry’s first one, In The Attic, is available for FREE on Amazon, Kobo, and Nook. Help yourself to one for the holidays!

READER FRIDAY – Share Your Favorite Character Driven Novel

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

 

“I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event, which is to say character-driven.” Stephen King – On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Some of the recent character-driven novels I’ve read lately are:
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Give an example of a book you’ve read with a memorable character-driven story – Author & Title – and tease us with why the character story was special.