Looking for ways to enhance your writing? Ways to grow your storytelling abilities? Or maybe even seeking a remedy to boost your stale prose? Look no further than your local library. I’ve discovered over the years that my writing improves drastically when I’m reading something that captures my imagination and challenges my personal status quo. Many books throughout my life have done this for me and I’ll mention a few here as examples.
1. Enhancing Writing: Truth be told for me personally, the books that enhance my writing are those that expand the boundaries of my imagination in any way unexpected. Many literary luminaries like CRIME AND PUNISHMENT or THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE (you know, the stuff you dreaded reading in school?) will certainly do the trick, but be sure to grab something to your own interest that you know will challenge you. If you want something more current to challenge your boundaries, then give JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke a try (a monster tome in some regards, but a gem nonetheless). I just had a friend recommend Neil Gaiman, who I plan on giving a read very soon.
2. Growing Storytelling Abilities: There are a few ways to do this effectively by reading some really great works. THE HERO’S JOURNEY by Joseph Campbell is a well lauded example because he dives into the history and connective threads of storytelling across many cultures to find the similarities that make great stories last. However I found Campbell difficult to read at times and so I would also recommend THE WRITER’S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogel, containing much of the same material but reworked to be more palatable for the lay reader. I’ve also read Stephen King’s ON WRITING several times, each time yielding different fruit that is helpful and tasty.
3. Boosting Prose: Read good poetry or anything where the prose is lyrical. Shakespeare is an obvious example as are Emily Dickens or Robert Frost, but don’t be afraid to seek out new or emerging, or even unknown poets online to be inspired by their work. So many people are sharing online these days, and a lot of it is pretty good stuff too. I find poetry (both reading it and writing it) helps to boost my natural prose. Also, reading fiction that is lyrical in the writing does wonders beyond belief; my favorites are Charles Dickens and Angela Carter.
Immersing yourself in any and all of these things will indeed help you naturally boost and grow your abilities to communicate effectively through writing. Think of it this way–the company you keep will define you as a person, either for the good or the bad. The same can be said of what you read affecting how you write. If you are aspiring to be a romance writer but everything on your bookshelf is a dime-store boddice-ripper, then it’s going to be very difficult to inspire your story to rise above the crowd. Try reading another kind of love story to get your juices flowing–THE LIFE OF PI or THE SHACK might be good as they are indeed love stories in their own right but romance is not prominently featured…however, intimacy does indeed thrive in both of these books.
As a final note, be encouraged to know that all successful writers are also successful readers. So read well and write on!