The more you read, the better you become as a writer. You’ve heard this before from other authors, people in the industry, etc. But the question is: how important is it?
When we read, we open our minds to knowledge, entertainment, and more. Some of this “more” is learning about character arcs and how to introduce them and sustain them throughout the story. We learn about the importance of plot, hooks, how to build a book and how to come up with a fantastic ending. We do this by studying what’s on the page.
If we don’t read, how can we know what’s out there? How can we grow to know and love characters that inspire us in creating our own? What adventures are we missing out on? It doesn’t have to be great literature at our fingertips. It just has to appeal to you. Comic/graphic books. Fiction. Non-fiction. This genre or that. There’s something to be learned from everyone.
Nor would I confine myself to reading just one type either. To read out of your area of expertise will broaden your horizon. I read almost everything I can get my hands on. There are a few that I have a hard time getting into—biographies, hard science fiction, and adventure novels. Although, recently, I picked up a copy of The Ice Limit by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, and was surprised by it. I usually don’t care for suspense, but give me a Linda Howard or Nora Roberts novel and I’m there.
You see, it all has to do with taste-testing. We do it with our food. We don’t take a lot of something we don’t like/if anything at all, but sometimes we find we like what we try. I can’t imagine sitting in a room surrounded by books and never pulling one from the shelves, never appreciating an author’s words. And with e-books today, there’s a whole new virtual library opening up for us all. Books of poems, horror stories, love stories, stories of hope and promise, it’s all in there. So don’t read a little, read a LOT, because with each book you’ve covered, you’re discovering and pushing boundaries into your stories.
Another book might inspire us to find a solution for something we’re working on. Albeit, I’m not suggesting stealing the exact same idea from someone else’s books but expanding on what we have in our own fictional worlds. How many authors out there have “borrowed” the vampire, werewolf, or Frankenstein image? How many more will? It all comes down to coming up with something original about them. And we do this by learning what’s out there.
Reading is so important in teaching our craft. It’s both a blessing and a curse. A blessing to open our imagination, a curse with so many books, so little time. But every minute spent in a page is so worth it. It sharpens our intelligence, sails us to faraway places, and grows something on the inside of us. So pick up that book and another after that. Go ahead, get inspired.