NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!


Julie Moffet . Clare London . Cathy Perkins . Jean Harrington . Daryl Anderson . Nico Rosso . Maureen A Miller . Sandy Parks . Lisa Q Mathews . Sharon Calvin . Lynne Connolly . Janis Patterson . Vanessa Keir . Tonya Kappes . Julie Rowe . Joni M Fisher . Leslie Langtry

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Book Report

Okay, I actually read some of my non-fiction TBR stack. Books about stories, writing, and motivation specifically. Perhaps I should mention I’m a book hoarder, er collector, I’m a book collector. Because I collect so many books (fiction and non-fiction—however right now I’m referring to my non-fiction collection—the bookshelves on the left in the photo) it takes me a while to actually read them. That doesn’t seem to slow down my acquisition of new books, however, that’s a story for another day.
My library (AKA living room)
Non-fiction TBR (stacks 1 & 2)

When I do read I tend to binge read, one of my favorite activities to avoid housecleaning, laundry, and the dishes (only if hubby is on the road, otherwise he has dish duty). I started with Wired for Story

(As a quick aside, Lisa Cron presents The Craft of Story in a Lynda.com video that is an excellent addition to her book.) One of the tantalizing things that hooked me on this particular work is the role neuroscience has had on how we learn and interact with the world around us (I’m an Instructional Designer in my day job so I am all about learning). As Lisa puts it “…our brain is hardwired to respond to story…story is how we make sense of the world.”

As authors, and devout readers, this should come as no great surprise, but it is nice to learn the science behind our gut feelings on the subject. Lisa makes it clear it’s all about the story. As writers, story comes first, craft second. Before you dig out your pitchforks and light any torches, I must say I’ve read many a story that could have used better editing, the author could have done a better job with point of view and her descriptions, but I hung in till the very end because the story made me care what happened next. While I would say it was the characters that made me keep reading, Lisa says it is curiosity that kept me turning the pages. And while better attention to craft would have made for a better read, I finished the book. I can’t say that for a (too) large number of books I stop reading before I even finish the first chapter—not just because they were poorly written (some weren’t at all) but because I just didn’t care—apparently the story was missing!

Lisa says “…there is an implicit framework that must underlie a story…to ignite the reader’s brain.” Or as she goes on to state, “We won’t put up with a bad story for three seconds.” Hmm, apparently I’m more tolerant for some reads than others since I usually try to read the first chapter, then again, I’ve also quit reading at the first line or two.

But recognizing a good story and being able to craft one is not so simple.

Brain science shows our brains react to stories the same as real-life. In other words, our brains willingly evoke the suspension of disbelief and it becomes real. Wired addresses how our brains perceive story and how, as writers, we can tap into those hardwired expectations. The chapters delve into hooking your reader, zeroing in on the point of your story, determining your character’s feelings, desires, and inner issues, delving into specifics, conflicts, and what must go wrong. She saved the best advice for last—reminding writers that the harder we try, the more likely we are to screw it up. That probably sums up the frustration writers go through when they try to apply all their newly-learned craft lessons. And why they feel like it was easier to write before they knew all those rules. Which is true. Fortunately, there is a cure—but you’ll need to read Wired for Story to learn how.
Non-fiction TBR (stacks 3,4, & 5)



So, have you experienced any good stories lately?

7 comments:

Anne Marie Becker said...

I love neuroscience - so fascinating! The story that is currently intriguing me is Harlan Coben's GONE FOR GOOD. I'm only about 25% into it, but looking forward to more. :)

Marcelle Dubé said...

Interesting post, Sharon! You make me want to pick up Wired. I've just finished reading a huge history book that is required reading for a workshop I'm taking. It felt like I was in purgatory the whole time...

Josh Lanyon said...

Another book hoarder here. :-) I have a lot of vintage mystery writing books, which I find really fun to read through now and again. Just for the pleasure of reading someone like Mary Stewart's thoughts on creating atmosphere.

Sharon Calvin said...

My new criteria for keeping a book: Would I read it again? If no, it goes! That applies to fiction and non-fiction equally. With so many books out there I don't want to waste my limited shelf space!

I've been collecting a lot of information on neuroscience--maybe I'll write a blog on that next :)

Elise Warner said...

Have five full bookcases and two shelves in cabinets devoted to plays and theater history. People sometimes think I live in a library. Currently reading Garth Risk Hallberg's City On Fire. Have to read the book in bed as it's weighs almost as much as I do.

Sandy Parks said...

So books produce the same reactions we would experience on that occasion in real life. Makes me wonder if I get lost in a book and can't put it down even if I should be sleeping/writing/cooking, does that means in real life I'm easily seduced into other directions from the ones where I need to go? I love to hear about the neuroscience. Can't wait for your next blog.

Donna said...

Interesting to read this blog asI am about one third of the way through a new author's initial offering and it is not particularly well crafted with holes a hundred yards wide and a mile deep. But the one thing that keeps me reading it at all is I am so invested with the characters! I'm hoping that he enlists the aid of a decent editor and copy editor. I think he has the imagination and talent; he just needs to have some guidance!

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