Productive reading

Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Kirby Tails, Jul 7, 2008.

  1. NeedMoreRage

    NeedMoreRage New Member

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    I was never a fan of delving really deep into books. I always felt books should be taken in whole. I prefer to look at the entire book at the end, and draw my own conclusions from that, instead of looking into every sentence for supposed messages.
     
  2. chicagoliz

    chicagoliz Contributor Contributor

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    Actually, this topic reminds me of a line from the Rodney Dangerfield movie Back to School. Rodney Dangerfield plays a wealthy older man who goes back to college to get his degree. He takes an English class and needs to write a paper analyzing Kurt Vonnegut's writing, so he finds Kurt Vonnegut and pays him to write the paper. The English professor gives him a failing grade on the paper, saying she suspects he did not write it and whoever did doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut.
     
  3. JamesOliv

    JamesOliv Member

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    That was a most excellent scene.

    But it's true.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald may have made the cars different colors because that's how he pictured them and he didn't intend a deeper meaning at all. Maybe he just saw an optometrist's ad that stuck in his head one day and it made it into the story. I think it is natural to look for meaning in a text. When I was living in the monastery, people did it all the time. Our novice master had a saying:

    "Sometimes, the verse is simply telling you to leave the camp in order to poop. It isn't making a statement about sin. It isn't talking about your inner struggle with good and evil. It is just telling you that, when you have to poop, you should not do it in the camp."
     
  4. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    James, I believe you are correct. It was "occulist" in the book. It's been a long, long time since I read it.

    For some reason this discussion reminds me of one of MY favorite movie scenes, the one with Bernard King in "Fast Break", in which he is taking a make-up lot exam so he can stay on the team. He gets too antsy sitting in a seat in the classroom, and the next thing you know, the three of them - King, the lit prof and Gabe Kaplan (coach) - are in the gym, and Bernard is shooting baskets as he answers the questions. One is to compare and contrast the styles of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, and Bernard says (I'm paraphrasing here): "Fitzgerald's characters are real deep, real complicated. Hemingways are real simple - dude goes out, hooks himself a tuna, and he's cool!"
     
  5. JamesOliv

    JamesOliv Member

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    The only reason I remember that is because when I read the book, I read the word as "occultist" and thought it odd. I actually didnt notice my own error until I saw the movie in high school.


    I think that says it all.

    A reader may not "get" every little reference. A reader might find meaning where the author intended none. But at the end of the day, the lesson to be learned is that the particular meanings matter far less than the overall picture. To me, a well constructed book is greater, as a whole, than the sum of its parts.
     
  6. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Because I have been very cynical about literary interpretation, I once asked a rather famous author about this very thing; if he was frustrated by people reading things into his work that weren't actually there. He answered that all he did was write the book. People can see what they like in his work, and interpret it in ways that he never imagined or expected; and they are all correct. He said that every interpretation is correct. He said that he wants people to find what they want to, and need to, in every detail-even if he never intended the meaning or made the connection himself. He's been very surprised by what people have come up with. Lastly, he said that he probably understood the text less than most of his readers.
     
  7. chicagoliz

    chicagoliz Contributor Contributor

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    I think this is very true. When I took a college fiction writing class, I wrote a short story and when we discussed it in class, there were several different interpretations of what a character had done. I had not intended one of them, but I actually found it very intriguing and liked it better than what I had thought I was doing with that character. Did I, on some level, intend the other interpretation as a possibility? Who knows? But based on my very limited experience with that, I absolutely believe that the author of a longer, more sophisticated work would have lots of those types of situations.
     
  8. Gilborn

    Gilborn Member

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    I find reading always helps to motivate myself into writing when I'm stuck. The worst case scenario is you mimic some of your favorite writes, which you most likely do already.
     
  9. Carthonn

    Carthonn Active Member

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    I agree with Gilborn. Reading helps me when I'm stalled. It can give you that slight push to get that spinning tire out of the muck. However, I do believe it depends on what you read. I need something satisfying and inspiring. In short, Jim Butcher is not going to cut it :)
     
  10. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    This is what I would have written if it hadn't already been said... :)
     
  11. Agent Vatani

    Agent Vatani Active Member

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    The words were taken right out of my mouth.
     
  12. sharonwagoner

    sharonwagoner New Member

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    Program,

    It jumps out at me that you have an eye for detail and hidden meanings. I was just wondering if you have ever considered writing a mystery story that is rather like a Chinese puzzle box--difficult, unexpected, and convoluted?

    As others have said, all but luxury cars were black until this time. The 1920's also saw phones made in white and colors, but most people could not afford them. The white phones were purchase by a few very wealthy people and Hollywood studios to go with Art Deco interiors. Watch for them in older movies, like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies.
     
  13. sharonwagoner

    sharonwagoner New Member

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    In advanced art classes, the teacher often had us purposely copy and analyze other art styles. Once we have mastered a number of styles, we have the tools to develop our own style. I think this would apply to writing also, as has been said by others here.
     
  14. Gilborn

    Gilborn Member

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    This wouldn't happen to be Chuck Palahniuk? In the version of Fight Club I own, which is the 10 year reprint, he goes into great detail in the back of all the different interpretations that have come from his work including the film which he ardors. However, Palahniuk wrote Fight Club as a love story. The best story he tells is of being on a plane flight shortly after the release and is given a free drink to listen to a man say the he knows that the fight clubs are a reference to homosexual sex groups. Palahniuk doesn't argue or explain himself, he smiles and nods while taking another free drink.
     
  15. Gilborn

    Gilborn Member

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    This is a great point and well put.
     
  16. hippocampus

    hippocampus Active Member

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    I love to read fiction. I'm almost always reading a book.

    When I decided to tackle writing a novel (my first) in one of my favorite genres, I re-read some of my favorite books to see what it was that grabbed me about them. Reading these books again inspired me when writing - I used them as references as to how certain things were handled such as dialogue, looks, action and back story.

    So I just started reading a new novel, and while the author seems to be quite prolific (they list at least 20 "other books by..."), I find that I don't like the way he handles dialogue and description of character behaviors. Now I don't want to read it because I feel like it will negatively influence my writing somehow.

    Is that ridiculous?
     
  17. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Supporter Contributor

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    In a word, yes. :)

    I doubt you can be influenced by something you really don't want to be influenced by. If you don't like how this writer handles dialogue, then it's unlikely that you'll handle dialogue the same way. If anything, reading this writer's work will drive you further away from writing like that. It may even help you write the way you want to by sharpening your perception of what you don't like, if that makes any sense ...
     
  18. hippocampus

    hippocampus Active Member

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    That's a comforting thought! I worry a bit that as a new writer, I may incorporate a lot of what I've read into my style while I'm growing as a writer. But I do see your point about using this book to help me avoid what I know I don't like.
     
  19. chicagoliz

    chicagoliz Contributor Contributor

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    Hate to be a wet blanket, but I don't think it's so ridiculous. It is very possible to be influenced by what you read, which includes the stylistic portions of what you're reading. However, being cognizant of it will help you avoid being too heavily influenced by a style you don't especially like. (If you do like the style, then, hey -- that's a bonus.) I think the way to avoid this, though, it to really mix up what you read. If you read one or two books by this author that you like, but you recognize that you don't like one particular aspect of the writing style, read at least one or several books by authors who don't use that same style.

    The greater variety of styles you read will mean a lesser chance of being too heavily influenced by one particular author. But on the other hand, if you find an author whose style you really do like, by all means, read everything that author wrote.
     
  20. kev675

    kev675 New Member

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    I think that its not too crazy but I think you need to re think your reading a little no offensive




    I am the Warlock
     
  21. ulster

    ulster New Member

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    It's not ridiculous, but you are your own person and can make up your own mind about what's good or bad, what you like and don't like, and what your writing style is going to be. That's part of any learning process, whether you're learning to pitch a baseball or learning to roast a chicken. Everyone has a different way of doing things and you need to blaze your own trail. I don't think reading a "bad" book is going to make any difference.

    ps - with all the great books on the planet, why would you spend time reading a book you don't like?
     
  22. hippocampus

    hippocampus Active Member

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    I started reading it because I knew it had some action-packed scenes and I wanted to see how the author handled those.

    Plus, it goes into a bit of depth about some CIA stuff that's said to be fairly accurate.

    In any case, I'm not saying it is a bad book so much as the dialogue just didn't flow for me when reading it. I'm sure I wouldn't have given it a second thought in the days before I wanted to try my hand at writing (so to speak!).
     
  23. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what would be ridiculous is if you allowed it to...
     
  24. jazzabel

    jazzabel Agent Provocateur Contributor

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    My process is exactly the same, I look at my favourite books in the same genres to figure out how to deal with different aspects that I'm having issues with.

    As far as this book you mentioned, why are you reading it if you don't like the writing? I am very picky with my literature and anything that annoys me I stop reading. I only read stuff that I can get into and I always like the writing.

    ps. Just read your comment about reasons why you are reading it. I would say it will most definitely not influence you in a bad way. Just consider it research. I read a book written by a FBI profiler because I needed that for my book and it was so badly written in places but overall the useful info in it outweighed my issues with writing. If anything it helped me not to write like that.
    It's the same as critiquing other people's work. Sometimes what they write will be dreadful. But it is not infectious. The only way bad writing can influence you is if you think it's actually brilliant writing and you make an effort to write like that. But if you know it's bad, it won't affect you, I promise ;)
     
  25. goddessofwords

    goddessofwords New Member

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    Sort of, I understand where your coming from - lots of my inspiration came from the books I read or the TV Shows I just LOVE. However, I have my own writing style, my own techniques and my own way of writing out scenes. I'm sure you do too!
     

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