Saturday, May 17, 2014

Truly-good Fiction

I recently read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. I was already a John Green fan, but for some reason it took me 20,000 years (give or take 19,998) to pick this one up. I'm so glad I finally did! What a book!


Truly-good fiction has that stick-to-your-ribs quality, feeding us as humans, nourishing us as writers.


As a reader, I love it when I find myself underlining sentences in a book because they give clarity to something, or about someone, in my life--regardless of the book's subject matter. It can happen with realistic fiction, fantasy, or whatever. My life may not look like Hazel's or Augustus's, but passages of Green's novel made me feel I was meant to read his book, and exactly when I did. You guys know what I mean, right? It's that feeling when something resonates, allowing you to understand an event, problem, or incident at a deeper level, maybe even inspiring you to be a better person or to not take a day for granted just because it was uneventful or imperfect. Without being didactic, good fiction can touch the heart and reveal truth.

An example of another book that unexpectedly reached me: THE GIVER by Lois Lowry.


I tacked a quote from Lowry's book to my corkboard years ago, and it's still there--and I still search it out, pushing aside character sketches or whatever else may be hiding it, to read it.


As writers, we can learn from well-written novels, and what we read colors how we write. Kristin Cashore's gorgeous descriptions inspire me to work at improving my own. While reading THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, a few of the many things that struck me were the characters, dialogue (of course--John Green!), and setting. Regarding setting (something I've been focusing on lately in my WIP), I can see the various places in the book so clearly, yet Green describes each one without wasting words, efficiently and beautifully. How does he do that?! And he makes it look so easy! By reading and studying his work, maybe a shadow of something can cross into mine. I hope! I'm currently reading WHY WE BROKE UP by Daniel Handler, and I'm totally hooked on his main characters. Whether writing as Lemony Snicket or under his real name, Daniel Handler has a strong voice, and I'm impressed he can vary it the way he does.





Fiction, by definition, isn't real life, yet it has the potential to be powerful, to help us understand or appreciate real life. There have always been storytellers to explain, to entertain, to connect. Stories are important. There's so much to aspire to, so much to learn.


What books have recently touched or inspired you?

18 comments:

Medeia Sharif said...

I love TFIOS. It's amazing and I hope to reread it.

It took me a long time to get to The Giver, until I ended up teaching it in class.

Saumya said...

Ah, I must read all of these!

Dawn Simon said...

Medeia, you're right, it's amazing! WHY WE BROKE UP, which I just finished, is amazing, too! Yowza!

Hi, Saumya! Yes, they're all excellent!

Theresa Milstein said...

Love this question. Thanks for sharing books that impacted you.

When I started working with the 7th grade, I hadn't read a child's book in years. Around 2003 or 2004, I read The Giver. I was blown away. A year or so later, I read Harry Potter to my son. That book inspired me to write.

Since then, here and there, I read books that blow me away.

Dawn Simon said...

Hi, Theresa! Interesting that THE GIVER had a big effect on each of us! And the Harry Potter books...wow. I love hearing which books inspire other writers.

Barb Davis-Pyles said...

THE GIVER had a big impact on me as well. I read it years ago, and yet there are so many moments in my life when it comes to mind. Now I simply MUST read FAULT IN OUT STARS (yes, make that 20,001 years for me) and WHY WE BROKE UP. Thanks so much for the helping me with my summer reading list, Dawn! :)

Dawn Simon said...

Hi, Barb! Wow, another vote for THE GIVER! Yes, yes, yes, you have to read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and WHY WE BROKE UP! :)

I know I've told you this, but I love your blog. So cheery and inspiring!

Lynda R Young said...

I really liked the Giver, but haven't yet read the Fault. I must fix that.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love the Giver!!! I always read it aloud with my classes - it creates the best discussions! :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL That was me too with TFIOS. I finally read it and loved it, and told my teen about it. He wasn't interested in it. At. All. But then one of his friends read it and gushed about it and my son had to read it. And now he wants to take me to the movie, knowing I'll be bawling at the opening credits.

Dawn Simon said...

Hi, Lynda! Yes, you must! ;)

Jemi, I bet it does! I'm trying to remember what grade(s) you teach! You, Medeia, and Theresa have lucky students!

Stina, aw, that's sweet! It'll be so fun, watching it together. Don't hesitate to tell him, "I told you so." ;)

Old Kitty said...

I admit to not having read A fault in our Stars but know there's a film out and I do like the theme song by Ed Sheeran! It looks very sad!

Take care
x

Stephanie Faris said...

The Fault in Our Stars was supposed to be the next book I read, but I had to finish yet another book first. Next!!! I swear, it's taking me forever to get to that one.

Dawn Simon said...

Old Kitty, I'll probably see the film, but I'm not 100% sure. You're way more hip than I am because I wasn't aware of the theme song! :)

Stephanie, I totally get it. I was only being silly when I worded it that way in the post because it seemed like everyone--even friends who aren't big into YA--had already read it! I was wrong! That said, you'll enjoy it!

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I had avoided reading Fault in our Stars till just recently when my stepdaughter insisted. I wasn't keen on reading a book about dying, but I listened to the audiobook and was blown away. It's a book about living! And one of my fav's.

Dawn Simon said...

Terry, I think that was why I kept putting it off as well, but you're absolutely correct: It's a book about living! And it's wonderful in so many ways.

Theresa Milstein said...

I meant to tell you, I'm gong to read, Why We Broke Up.

Dawn Simon said...

Yay! I bet you'll love it, Theresa! The writing is brilliant, but I also love the art and even the heavy paper. Enjoy! :)