Writing: Things reading has taught me


I just finished reading The Third Option by Vince Flynn. Overall, it was quite an enjoyable read. However, now that I’m wanting to write, I notice things in the story which stand out. I wish this wasn’t the case, but I think everyone who is thinking of/is/wants to be writing notices things about the books they read – you just can’t help it!

Pros: The author draws you into the story by causing you to connect to the main character using empathy and sympathy. In the beginning you are unsure of the main character, but by the end you and completely supportive of the character even if you don’t agree with his role. This made me want to keep reading to see what happened.

Cons: The main character is defined well, but the rest are rather blurry. They are more fuzzy outlines rather than well developed characters whose contributions to the storyline are obvious and intriguing and personalities which easily separated them. There are two main characters which have a very similar name and role which makes it difficult to differentiate between the two.

The author assumes the reader knows about the topics he is using to portray the story. For example, this book delves slightly into American politics and defence – something I know very little about. Throwing around titles and jargon without describing it left me feeling a little lost at times. Without giving a little bit to the reader, the importance of some passages are lost.

From this it has helped solidify the following things in my mind –
1. Make sure the reader understands your characters – if they do not connect they will not want to read what happens, no matter how good it is
2. Provide information on technical topics – if there are topics that you have created or researched, make sure you provide some explanation otherwise you will disconnect with your readers
3. Story flow – ensure that the story flows well. You can’t create a story completely of highs and excitement, with explosions and murder every page – it will wear your readers out! On the other hand, if you spend fifty pages describing how the main character likes their breakfast in the morning, you will put your readers to sleep. Find the happy medium.
4. Answer the question – I remember my English teachers would go on and on about this all the time. Whenever you are writing an essay, there is a topic question. You can write thirty pages of well structured, coherent prose that wouldn’t seem out of place in a literary journal. However, if you do not answer the question, the reader/marker will be left thinking what the? Whatever questions you raise at the beginning and throughout the story need to be answered or have enough information given so that the reader can make up their own mind as to what has happened. Without it, your story will be like an unfinished roller coaster – it might’ve been a great ride, but if the track isn’t finished, it is going to crash and burn. Make sure you close out any loose ends.

There are other things that I noticed but I can’t remember them right now! Now, time to start reading the next novel or time to get writing? The next novel I have to read is Bleeding Hearts by Ian Rankin.