Reading as a Writer: Looking for the Good

Whatever you do for a living, if you’ve ever watched a show that portrays someone in your profession and they get it all wrong, or half wrong, or even just a tiny bit wrong, don’t you find yourself rolling your eyes or commenting to the person next to you on how it really works?

This is why my hubby and I couldn’t watch that TV show Numb3rs together. Or that lousy movie with Jenna Fischer as a dental hygienist.

beautiful burnSometimes, reading is like this for me. It’s not always easy to turn off the writer part of my brain and just read to enjoy. All my writing pet peeves poke at me while I read, and make the experience less fun. Then I have to remind myself that some other writer is reading my books having the same thoughts!

So, instead of critiquing as I read, I try to learn from it instead. I just finished reading “Beautiful Burn” by Jamie McGuire and loved all the work she put into researching how the Hotshot firefighting teams in Colorado live and work. Having lived near or in Colorado for most of my life, I appreciated the level of detail she put into her writing, and it pushed me to dig a little deeper into some of the research I’ve been working on for “Wicked Revenge.”

jm barrieI’ve also been reading JM Barrie’s “Peter Pan” (the original book) which, let me tell you, is far removed from the Disney version, or any other version I’ve ever seen. It’s bizarre and really not something a kid would understand or probably be interested by. I have a pretty good vocabulary and love British fiction, but I’m still looking up words and trying to figure out what Barrie is trying to get at half the time.

BUT, I love the honesty of his characters. Peter has this moment of intense jealousy as Wendy decides to go home to her mother and the Lost Boys say they’ll go with her because they want a mother too, and Peter mentions a saying in The Neverland that every time you breathe, a grownup dies, so he starts breathing really hard and fast. It’s dark, but completely honest for a young boy who’s losing his only family and is too proud to admit he wants them to stay. I want to be able to write that sort of frank honesty in my characters, even if I’ll leave the archaic words and style to Barrie.

So, whether you’re watching a TV show that’s totally misrepresenting what you do every day at work, or reading about cars driving 55 miles per hour down a windy, two-lane mountain pass in a blizzard (which, trust me, would NEVER happen), there’s almost definitely something else that’s going to be wonderfully inspiring. Don’t forget to look for it.

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