Writers (heart) Stories

One thing about writers is that writers are persons who have learned to love story. We are addicted to story! If we go through a few weeks without reading a new book or even seeing a new movie or new episode of a television show, we are story-deprived and become cranky— the same way a carbohydrate addict becomes cranky doing without his Snickers bars or his bread or McBurgers.

The majority of good writers discovered in childhood that books are reliable sources of stories, and from that age we’ve learned the tricks to find the books with the kinds of stories we like. We look for book cover pictures— a spaceship on the cover means science fiction, a shirtless man on the cover signals ‘sexy’ romance. We look for reliable writers who have delivered good stories to us before.

As we go on in the writing life, some of us stop reading for story. When we do writer-networking, we accumulate a pile of writer-friends, all of whom seem to have books out at the moment. We also read books by our genre competitors/colleagues to see what the genre is up to lately. We may feel we have no time to read something just because the story might be fun.

But fun is the essence of fiction. Readers pick up our books and read because they want the fun that a good story can deliver. They don’t do it, say, because their boss at work will give them a raise when they’ve read 100 new books.

Reading books for fun is the way to keep the fun of story alive in our own fiction. Nothing is more dreadful than the books that are composed with the idea of teaching us some Very Important grim feminist lesson, or some other vile didactic plot. If we want to learn the latest Very Important progressive lesson, we don’t need to wade through a full novel, we can find an op-ed piece or an essay that will give us the same stuff more quickly.

Writers gain readers when they can tell good stories and make fun happen. Even writers that are accused of being politically offensive can keep their readers as long as the stories stay good. I have been more than once mortally offended by stuff progressive writer Stephen King said about conservatives like me, but I didn’t quit reading him until I was about 1/4 of the way into a book of his and he not only said something vile about Donald Trump, I realized no good story-stuff had happened yet— I was still waiting for the fun to start. I put the book aside, not out of conservative righteousness, but because I didn’t anticipate the fun starting anytime soon.

So, my advice is, read something for fun, right now. Since I am short of funds at the moment, and am a fast reader, I made for my local library today to find new stuff to read. It’s a small-town library and doesn’t always have what I am looking for— they only had TWO books by Heinlein! But I found some Temeraire books I was willing to read again, and a couple of other books by authors that Dean Wesley Smith suggested as authors to study. So I’m ready for Thanksgiving Day— instead of watching and waiting to be invited to a gathering at which I won’t be particularly welcome, I’m planning on reading my brains out. And eating Spam and fried eggs instead of dry turkey. Win-win.

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