Books that made you a better writer

Read a good book lately? Want to discuss it with others? Share what you're reading and find out what should be on your bookshelf.
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Books that made you a better writer

Postby josh.townley » Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:15 pm

What have you learned from some of your favourite books and authors? (Or maybe it was a book so bad it taught you what not to do)

I've read two books recently where the author has just blown me away with their technique, and switched on a light-bulb for me in my own writing.

The first was 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak. His writing style was like nothing I'd ever come across before, and the way he plays with words to set a scene is just beautiful. He would sometimes describe words or sentences as if they were a physical thing, they have a smell or colour, a presence in the room. As well as being a brilliant and moving story, this was what I loved about the book. It taught me to push the boundaries of metaphor and blend the line between the tangible and the intangible.

The book I read after this was 'The Fault in our Stars' by John Green. His writing style is vastly different from Zusak's, but it is among the most engaging I've ever read. It is quite heavy for a YA book, with lots of life and death stuff, but his ability to write in the teenage voice is deceptively brilliant. Maybe he can't write any other way, I don't know, but this book taught be a lot about writing convincing external and internal dialogue.
Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps. - David Lloyd George
Goodreads: ... sh-townley

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Re: Books that made you a better writer

Postby updog » Sat Jan 26, 2013 2:31 pm

The most recently read book that's had a big impact on my writing was Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I'm not very good at explaining my reasons for liking a novel, but I think it's that the story hit me straight in the heart, and the brain too cause I sort of felt like I was losing my mind right along with Billy Pilgrim. But as jumbled as the timeline was, I never once felt lost. Vonnegut seemed to break every so-called rule of modern storytelling, and he made it work, proving once again that a skilled writer can make up his own rules.

I was also struck by the informality of the narrator. I could almost picture the guy sitting across the table from me, telling me this story over a cup of coffee, which reminded me again of the importance of voice in fiction.

Basically, after reading Vonnegut I am reminded why I wanted to tell stories in the first place. What I wouldn't give to be able to communicate with readers the way he could.
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Re: Books that made you a better writer

Postby jannertfol » Sun Feb 24, 2013 11:46 am

One of my favourite books since childhood, and one I still read and wish I'd written myself, is the classic coming of age story "Old Yeller," by Fred Gipson. The story is short, but the author has mastered tone. The narrator, speaking as an adult looking back on a particular period in his life, is able to convey so much attitude and information about his unique historical setting and memorable characters that I am green with envy, every time I read it. If there was a Hemingway for children, this is it.

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Re: Books that made you a better writer

Postby TNE » Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:06 pm

For me it all started when my little brother told me about this book he read and described it to me in such a way that when I actually read that book I was disappointed in it. Although, that's not the author's fault. More cause I was more naive and my brother is such a great liar.

But anyways the first book that got me into reading was Pearls of Lutra by Brian Jacques and is still one of my favorites of the Redwall series. The book my bro tricked me into reading was Taggerung and ironically kind of glad he did. Hence my characters are always anthropomorphic.

Shadowmancer by G.P. Taylor really showed me how to develop characters and helped with my world building along with Harry Potter. Both this book and series showed me how to build tension and suspense.

But a book that really altered my writing style has to be Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. The whole book is about the villain and it was just a thrill to see into what a mind of evil thinks like.

I read Robert Jordan's The Conan Chronicles and that really showed me how to develop action and technique. Also the choice of words is always important to your writing craft. And made me rethink my action sequences.

As for bad books, or well books that really showed me how not to be predictable was

1. Twilight the 1st book cause when Bella was in a dark alley getting some creepy stares from a bunch of guys. I joked to myself, "Wouldn't it be funny if..." Edward showed up out of nowhere and rescued her like a damsel in distress. :lol: whenever I make that joke I feel this. :|

And 2. Ranger's Apprentice series Kings of Clonmel. I made the joke again and then in the book we learn that Will's mentor, Halt has an evil twin brother. Come on really? Sibling rivalry sure but evil twin it's kind of :| Oh, and apparently Halt is actually royalty. I like surprises don't let me guess it before I can even form the question.

One that made me lol recently was Were-world: Rise of the Wolf, apparently someone has Vader issues. :lol: But then he unnecessarily censored a character's gender until halfway through the book. And yet somehow again I guessed it but there really was no need for it. Only that this Were-lord doesn't want his enemies to know that one of his children might be easy to kidnap. It wasn't necessary to censor the Were-lord's kid's gender from the main protagonist.

I think it's cliche that I don't like but it's more along the lines where the author tries to surprise the readers with this :o but it ends up falling flat like this... :|

Though it's not the author's fault or maybe it is for making it too predictable. Or maybe I'm just that intuitive. Haha :lol: Probably not it has to be the writing style.

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Re: Books that made you a better writer

Postby Anya Kylash » Sun Mar 17, 2013 10:14 pm

You read Ranger's Apprentice? That's one of my favorites! The earlier ones were his best ones, though. He's gotten worse as he keeps going.
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Re: Books that made you a better writer

Postby TNE » Mon Mar 18, 2013 1:09 am

Anya Kylash wrote:You read Ranger's Apprentice? That's one of my favorites! The earlier ones were his best ones, though. He's gotten worse as he keeps going.

No freaking way. :o That's crazy. Cool 8-) And yeah the early ones were better but I hated it that Morgorath got smoked by a kid with little experience. Sure Morgorath was old but he's got years on the art of war than Horace. I was expecting a grander duel but then that might be because of years of watching, reading, breathing Star Wars.

But Ranger's Apprentice is a great adventure series. Oh and another book that has greatly influenced me for its grand scale is the Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks. Holy snappedy doo those blew me away with the huge world the author puts you in. And the in-between zone of Life and Death that the main character walked was absolutely fascinating. I can only recommend this to readers who can handle its graphic nature. The third book though wasn't as grand as the other two but it was still an awesome conclusion to a great series.
The Night Angel Trilogy improved my world building tenfold.

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Re: Books that made you a better writer

Postby Lilly Starshine » Mon Mar 25, 2013 12:54 pm

I actually have The Book Thief and I haven't read it yet. My daughter brought it home and didnt have much intrerest in it. She doesnt read much. I have picked it up a couple of times but then get destracted from it. I will definatly give it a closer look now. I really liked Stephen King's On Writing. I know many of you have read it. Twilight was incredibly pridictable, wasn't it? I admit there were some good parts in ther series but over-all it was was teeny bobber bubble-gum reading. I read Christopher Pikes "The Last Vampire" series. I loved it when I was a kid and I still like it now; but the main character is super narcisistic and many of the situations are very unbelievable even by fictional standard, but it has much more origninality that Twilight did. More deepth, too, with the violence and the religious references. People were really knockin for a while because she is blond with blue eyes and she is from india. If you had not read the books that would definatly not make much sence, but she was made 5000 years before when the Arians invaded india. She was part of the Arian Nation. It is also not so much a romance book, although there is romance in it. It is more os a drama, with violence and sex and in the end she is really just trying to find her own humanity again. I want to throttle those idiots who try to say it is a reverse Twilight. Anyway, I will definatly read The Book Theif now that I have someone else mention it.

Oh yeah, was it just me or did it seem like the Twilight vamps just did not seem to have any weaknesses aside from each other. And why take a car anywhere if they could run super, super fast? One more thing, In the first book vamps like Jasper were still getting used to a "vegetarian" lifestyle. He had a very hard time controling himself when close to humans, and if there was human blood anywhere then he just went completely bloodlust crazy. He went to the high school with his family and other humans. Here is the hole, (not to be crude here but) out of all of those high school girls there had to be more than one at any givin time haveing there menstral cycle. So with activly bleeding girls her and there or anywhere then how did he stay controled??? Explain that one Mrs. Myer.

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Re: Books that made you a better writer

Postby bjamison71 » Mon Mar 25, 2013 4:04 pm

Jodi Picoult has an amazing talent for telling one story from several POVs. ("House Rules" comes to mind)

Sue Grafton's "ABC mysteries"-- "A is for Alibi", "B is for Burglar", etc.--are great! The series is up to "V" now, but she manages to keep each story fresh and exciting. Plus, even though it is a series and happenings from previous books are occasionally referenced, any of the books could be read out of sequence and still provide a satisfying read.

Anything by Anita Shreve-- she is amazing!! I love how her characters start off as separate, completely unrelated individuals, until (often tragic) circumstances arise that cause their lives to intertwine in wholly unexpected ways.

Sorry, Stephanie Meyer, but I've got to join the lynch mob against Twilight on this one! Maybe I'm too old to relate to the whole YA/teen angst thing anymore, but getting through this series was WORK!! And Bella Swan is the epitome of a Mary Sue!! (but the fourth movie wasn't half bad...)

Sometimes Nicholas Sparks novels bug me, because his good guys are TOO unfailingly perfect ("The Lucky One") and his bad guys are just nasty, nasty, nasty with NO redeeming qualities whatsoever! (again, "The Lucky One") And when Sparks does manage to pull me in and get me rooting for the happy ending, he snatches it away by killing off the male protagonist!! (I won't say which, in case anyone hasn't read them.) His stories sometimes come off as a bit forced or rushed, which is why I'm listing them under 'dislikes', but they're great if you like romance novels and you're looking for a light beach read.

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