Like many of us, I believe that in order to be a good writer one ought to be a constant reader.
As a dystopian fiction writer, this means plenty of dark tales on my bookshelf. I also belong to a Fantasy and Science Fiction book club where I get constantly introduced to new and exciting reads that can help me learn about the craft of writing in my chosen genre.
So, I thought it might be cool to share with you how I read fiction with a view to improving my writing.
How about I pick one book that I have read (recently) every month and let you know what writing lessons I managed to get out of it?
Sounds good? Well, then here you go. As we are coming to the end of April, let’s start straight away with one of my all-time faves which I recently re-read for the fourth(!) time.
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
The story is set in a darkly warped version of 1990s England. We encounter Kathy H, a carer, who is looking to come to terms with her past.
We learn about her childhood in a boarding school called Hailsham and the inevitable fate that has been awaiting her and her friends from way back when.
First of all, do not read this without having some tissues handy. I am not kidding. (The same goes for the film adaptation, by the way).
I bawled my eyes out for most of the read and I loved every second of it. The story is masterfully crafted and makes a powerful point about the sense of fate and destiny in the context of a faceless, uncaring society in which some people are considered less than others.
There is little sense of hope as the characters begin to understand their role in a supposedly utopian society. Engaging and poignant, Ishiguro reminds his readers that utopia comes at a price.
Lessons for Writers:
First of all, if you are after an example of what authentic voice sounds like, you are looking in the right place. Kathy H’s voice is delicate and believable. As readers, we can identify with her and her point of view. I highly recommend reading passages out loud.
Then, the novel holds an amazing lesson regarding how to build suspense. If you ever wondered how to gradually release information without giving too much away too soon, read Never Let Me Go. Also, observe how Ishiguro uses the nature and circumstances of his main characters to make this believable.
Finally, the biggest lesson I got out of this book is how to package negative aspects of a story in such a way as to highlight positive character traits such as innocence, dutifulness, acceptance and inner strength. A lot of this is done through voice in contrast with gradual revelation of the story’s realities. We learn a lot about Kathy H through the way in which she reacts to her circumstances.
Intrigued? Get your hands on a copy of the book and let me know what lessons you can get out of the book (additionally to the three I have identified). I bet there are tons!
DISCLAIMER: I do not benefit from any sales of the book so you can get it from the local library if you don’t want to invest your hard-earned cash. 😉
Also, don’t forget to drop me a line in the comments below to let me know whether you consider this a useful feature or whether there are any specific novels that you have learned from in recent months.
And …if you LOVED this post and want to help me keep writing: