Something I learned while reading a bunch of books

by kalbzayn on September 18, 2009

I have been reading a lot over the last several months. Like between 6 and 10 books a month which is way more than I normally read. Staying off the internet at night really does free up a lot of time.

I’ve also been reading a lot of different kinds of books. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, classics, modern mainstream fiction, even a couple plays.

Almost every famous writer that talks about learning to be a better writer mentions that you need to read a lot because you will learn things that work and things that don’t work and you’ll get a better feel about how books, plots, characters, etc. are put together.

I learned something pretty big for me over these last few months.

Most of the writing I’ve done in the past has been really short stories. In something that short, you introduce the character, the problem, the setting all in one big shot gun and then really quickly wrap it up and walk away.

So when I try to write something longer, I have a tendency to introduce the character, the problem, the setting, and start working toward the solution all in the first few pages with horrible results.

The big thing that I learned is that novel length fiction provides plenty of space and that the plot should unroll quite a bit more slowly than I have a tendency to do. Early chapters can be used to show things about the characters or the world rather than having them working on fixing the big main problem.

If the character spends some time working on their normal everyday life, that gives the plot plenty of time to start tormenting the character before the character has a chance to start fixing the problems.

Which gets to what I learned about my writing shortcomings with all this recent reading.

I have a tendency to have characters that don’t get beat down nearly enough. Since they are working on fixing the big problem so early in the plot, they come across as people that can fix problems fairly effortlessly which leads to very boring stories and characters.

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