Ah, he has answered my call for further exploration into this business of reading, so I direct you to Steve Ersinghaus at The Great Lettuce Head with his series on his thoughts as a writer, reader, and instructor of literature. 

Steve starts by comparing the literary journey of reading to a physical traveling, exploring in a walk or taking a well-established route in a drive.  Some of each is automatic, learned and not needed to actively call up to direct one’s path.  But there is more information all around as we move onward to a destination, whether it be home, or work, or the end of a story.

I have just recently learned how to read for story (the reason to read fiction, after all) while acutely aware of voice, technique, character development, imagery, etc.; all the elements critical to writing.  But I as yet have to learn how to pick up on the metaphors, symbolism, meaning, theme, etc. concurrently with the other two acts of reading.  This will take skill and practice.

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3 Responses to LITERATURE: Reading

  1. Mark says:

    It just pours out of you, doesn’t it?

    Here’s what I do. Read a random novel by pop author Stephen King, say “Insomnia.” I happened to have read it before noticing his reference to it in his own book about writing: his hardest worked plot. And that was after “The Stand?”

    We can all learn something about pulp fiction when the bad guys are good/evil ghosts and just get down into the narrative. Not the gory details. We find we care about the people. That’s his “trick.” That’s why he’s the world’s best-selling author.


  2. Mark says:

    PS. Some write for “story,” others for “character.” A good tale must have both. One without the other is quickly forgotten.

  3. susan says:

    I’m learning much just from reading the work of others right now, and that’s why I’m going to spend the “fall semester” reading and writing without restriction or direction. I’m tackling Didascalicon just to help answer some of the questions I have about reading, now that so many paths seem open. I used to love King, and for the way he made the known reality suddenly scary. I stopped reading him when he added in strange phenomena because it altered reality, and I ended up resisting it on principle. I have been working on character and imagery and voice, but have neglected story; need to infuse tension and conflict. Would you be willing to read one of my stories and critique honestly some time?

    Yeah, I guess in writing at least, stuff does tend to pour out unstoppered.

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