Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Feature: Reading Stories as an Aspiring Writer

Every Wednesday, I'll have an essay or a feature on any topic that catches my fancy!

"Reading" as a word can be deceptive mainly because there are several ways to "read" a story. For example, reading a short story as a reviewer is different from me reading a short story as an editor, as a casual reader, as a critic, or even as a writer. Of course all of those factors aren't isolated and my mind actually melds them into one huge amalgam that only get separated and identified later on when I do my re-readings.

What I'd like to focus on are the reactions I get as a reader-writer. Here are some of my own experiences and you're free to add your own:
  • I Want to Be a Writer: This is perhaps the most difficult reaction to recapture, mainly because it's either happened to you already or it hasn't. These are the stories which spurn you to be a writer. Usually, you read them during your childhood but late-bloomers can also find such a story later in life. They may not necessarily be the greatest stories ever written but there's definitely something about the narrative that called out to you. Hopefully, it's because the story was great. Otherwise...
  • I Can Do Better: There are, honestly, some stories which elicits such a reaction because they're so bad or so flawed (or perhaps even hubris on your part). Sometimes, it is this type of story that actually spurns you to be a writer (see above) or simply agitates you enough to start writing. Check out this video from Stephen King.
  • This is Amazing but I'll Never Write Like This: As a writer, there will be some realities you'll face. You'll eventually come across a story that'll blow your mind away and you realize you'll never write this kind of text. There are usually one of two reasons for this: either you don't have the skill to pull it off or your style is simply too different. When it comes to the former, there are three possible reactions. Those who simply aspire to write might give up then and there. Second are those who are content with the stories they're actually capable of writing. And the third hope to attain that kind of skill some day: it might not be tomorrow, not even next year or the year after that, but eventually, they'll get there.
  • I Can Write Like This: There are some stories that feel like bait dangled in front of you. It's a terrific story--perhaps even one of your all-time favorites--and it's a story that's attainable on your end, provided you work at it. If the story in the previous item takes leaps and bounds of experience before you can write one, this one simply requires you to overcome an immediate hurdle. Again, there are several reasons for this. It could be that the writer has a similar style to yours. It could also be a story that opens your eyes to new possibilities, new paradigms, new techniques that you haven't thought of before.

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