Hello, dear readers! I finally got around to writing this post. 🙂 I’m so happy that you guys liked the last writing tips post, and I hope this one will prove helpful too!
I’ve been reading plenty of books lately, and I always naturally pick them apart a little when I read. I wanted to share with you guys some of things I’ve learned just by reading, because that is an great way to improve your writing: read good books. Not just interesting, fun to read books, but books that you admire for the author’s writing style, books you wish you could write. Poke around the pages and try to notice what you like about the book. Is it the characters? The words? The images the writer calls to your mind? Always be on the lookout for your own writing tips.
A little disclaimer before we start: I am by no means a professional writer. I don’t even write that often, actually! (Except for plenty of blog posts. 😄 ) I just thought I’d share these tips which I need to remember, and hope they help you too.
Okay, so want I want to do is give you two wonderful examples of books (or rather, series) that I have learned a lot from. They each have good things to emulate and bad things to stay away from. Then I’ll do a general summary of some tips I learned from good books. Are you ready? Let’s start with my all time favorite…
The Mysterious Benedict Society
AHH I LOVE THIS BOOK! It’s so clever and suspenseful and entertaining and… well, you’ll see.
- Originality: One of the top things that draws me to a book is how originally or creatively the author tells the story. That’s something I have trouble with: coming up with original plots. Although I can’t say the basic plot of MBS is super original (in a nutshell, four children work as a team to save the world from the terrifying plans of an evil genius), the details and characters are pretty creative. I would never have thought of many of the interesting characters or the delightful riddles and puzzles that intrigue you as a reader.
- Interesting and Relatable Characters: This is one of my favorite things about the MBS. Each character is unique. Reynie is the leader of the children, a thoughtful and intelligent boy who has always felt out of place. Sticky, the worrier, has a photographic memory and a mysterious and unhappy past. Kate is a bright, athletic girl who always carries a red bucket filled with everything you could possibly need in an emergency. (She and Sticky especially have some of the funniest quirks and characteristics.) And Constance… well, the children don’t know quite what to make of the tiny, sleepy girl who’s always complaining, arguing, or making up terrible poems. Even though the children are so different from ordinary children, you can still relate to them and their worries and triumphs. Some other interesting characters are Mr. Benedict, who has a strange condition that causes him to fall asleep at inopportune moments; “the pencil woman,” aka Number Two, who hardly ever sleeps, is always famished, and is too embarrassed to use her real name; and Milligan, a sorrowful, weatherbeaten man with a very mysterious and surprising past.
- Mystery and Plot Twists: I love all the mysteries, the many plot twists, the clever riddles, and the can’t-put-it-down factor of this book. Almost any story can be improved by an element of unknown. It keeps the reader hooked.
- Skillful Writing: I also appreciate Trenton Lee Stewart’s excellent writing style. I think this is why the MBS is still at the top of my list. Other books may be more exciting or interesting, but very few are as well written as this one, in my opinion. His style is very natural, interesting, and sometimes funny. The way he wrote the book with a mix of old and new technology makes it seem timeless and not old-fashioned, and I like the way the author brings out the characters’ story rather than focusing too much on the time period or setting. He has mastered the art of invisibility, he lets the characters tell their own story.
- Slow Beginnings: The one thing that I think could be improved upon is a quicker start to the book. It’s a little slow at first, which was fine with me, but as an author you have to be quick on your feet to keep readers from abandoning you before they even get started.
Keeper of the Lost Cities
This is one of the most exciting series I’ve ever read! It is sooo hard to put down.
- Suspense: This book is SO suspenseful! Sharon Messenger nearly drives you crazy with all the mystery and suspense, but in a good way. 🙂 I believe the key to keep your readers reading is to leave out a few important facts that they can’t wait to uncover. The author is a master at that! If anything, I think she goes a bit overboard. There are so many mysteries that Sophie, the main character, has to figure out for herself, and you can’t help but wait with bated breath for her searching to pay off.
- Interesting Character Relationships: Keeper is a lot different than the MBS in this way. I mean, the character relationships are both good, but the ones in Keeper are just… different. The relationships are more complex, and she develops the characters so well, they feel like real people! You feel very close to the characters and this makes it easier to fall into their world. Which brings us to…
- Well-Developed Setting: Shannon Messenger takes extreme care in creating the elvin world. She provides enough background information to make the world believable. She makes you think, “Well I know this isn’t true, but it almost could happen.”
- Poor writing style: PLEASE DON’T KILL ME, KEEPER FANS! 😄 This is strictly my opinion, and I’m sure there are lots of people who absolutely love her writing style. Anyway, there are several things I don’t care for. Number one, it does not seem very natural. The author seems to be trying hard to make the story even more suspenseful by adding, for instance… Way. Too. Many. One. Word. Sentences.
And her paragraphs are one-lined a lot.
I think one-lined paragraphs are extremely useful when used in moderation, but when you overuse them it gets tiringly dramatic. True, in some ways it is easier to read, but on the other hand, it’s almost too easy. My brain likes it better when it has to work just a little bit to extract the story. And number two (or is it three?), I don’t appreciate how modern the words are. That is just my preference, but I don’t like how she uses such casual, sometimes slang language. I would enjoy reading it much more if she had more of the timeless style that Trenton Lee Stewart does. That’s probably THE main difference I like the MBS better than Keeper: because of the writing style.
Alright, I’ve gone over a few of the things I like and dislike about two certain books, but now I want to summarize some general tips that go for pretty much all fiction books.
- Be Original: Use words no one else has used to tell a story no one has ever told before. Don’t tell a story that’s already been told unless you can tell it in a more interesting way. Stay away from clichés and make up your own metaphors and descriptions that no one else has thought of, to give your readers an interesting perspective on your subject. No one needs to tell us again that her eyes were as blue as the sky; what about as blue as the mountains where she came from?
- Keep Them Reading: Don’t let the reader know everything. Things left unsaid make the him want to keep reading. Plot twists and mysteries are handy little tools that really go a long way towards making your book a can’t-put-it-down-er.
- Spend Time on Your Characters: I personally think characters are one of the most important part of the book – sometimes even more important than the plot! Think about it. Some adventure stories, or stories without much of a plot, can survive because you’re just reading for the characters. You laugh at their antics and cry at their tragedies, because they have become your friends. While you read about them, they are real people. That is your goal as a writer, to make your characters seem like real people. Rereading the book should mean visiting old friends, not just remembering the plot you already solved. So, spend time on your characters. The best characters are relatable, which means they aren’t perfect, just like you, and just like the reader. Just like everyone. Good characters have quirks and fears and likes and dislikes just like real people. And believe it or not, not everyone in the real world is an orphan or a princess. (Even though, sadly, there really are the former if not many of the latter.) But don’t make the character too imperfect or he’ll become a one-sided bad guy. Give your character some good traits so that the reader wishes he or she could have too. And as for character relationships, I’ve noticed that a little bit of romance (even just a tiny bit, not anything too gross 😄 ) makes the book more suspenseful and interesting. But that, of course, is up to you and your tastes.
And thus concludes my lengthy opinions! I hope this was helpful to you guys. 🙂 What writing tips have you learned from good books?
Thanks for reading!