Story for you…
So there was The Gunslinger, The Psychopath and a Rattlesnake…
Sounds like the beginning of a bizarre joke which continues “… who walked into a bar.” But I’m not here to do comedy (and there’s no need for any smart remarks there).
No, these are just some of the titles of books I’ve read since the start of the year. Nine in total. Plus four books I have ‘dipped into’ and not yet finished.
I pick them up in book stores, online, at charity shops (supporting a good cause) and even occasionally at the library. Do you remember the last time you went to the library?
The collection I’ve waded through since 1st January includes a biography, two non-fiction and six novels – all crime thrillers or epic fantasy (thrillers). Each with a powerful story.
Why do I read so much?
I love reading. Simple as that.
I read for pleasure. I read to relax. I read to escape.
And it also delivers a valuable by-product for my work. It improves my writing. (I’m sure there is scientific proof I’m right but for now just roll with it. I used to be a journalist so you can trust me).
And story plays an important part in copywriting and creating marketing messages.
Reading improves writing.
If you think about it for a moment, it makes perfect sense.
Have you ever learned a foreign language? I studied French (and German and Italian to lesser degrees) and what helped my written French was reading in French. I got to see how the words worked on the page. How the nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns and tenses were put together in the correct order.
I did the same when I was learning shorthand and had to pass a test at 100 words per minute to get the career-enhancing reporters ‘Proficiency Test’ certificate.
I subscribed to a shorthand magazine for Pitman New Era so I could practise reading and transcribing the code of lines, swirls and hooks into precise English. It improved my vocabulary, ability to use short form words and phrases, and speed. I still hold a certificate for 120wpm.
So, reading helps with writing.
And at the heart of all the books is story – and storytelling.
The biography I read most recently was the third instalment about the life of Radio 2 Breakfast Show presenter and broadcaster Chris Evans, called Call the Midlife. An entertaining read with a refreshingly different structure to the standard chronological bio.
The non-fiction fare included The Psychopath Test (I’ve written about this in a previous blog) and an old compilation of Jeremy Clarkson‘s motoring reviews for The Sunday Times. What struck me most reading that one (Don’t Stop Me Now) was how much it reminded me just how GOOD a writer Mr Clarkson is.
He opens most of his articles with no or little reference to motoring and then slides the topic towards the car review. It is smart, punchy and very funny. Much more original than the scripts he delivered for Top Gear or delivers for The Grand Tour.
And then there are the novels. The thrillers.
Stephen King is one of my all-time favourite authors. He is a master of storytelling and suspense. Yet funnily enough, I found The Gunslinger (the first part of the epic The Dark Tower series) a tough read. It did not flow like his other books. Undaunted, I picked up the second episode, The Drawing of The Three, and could barely put it down.
A rare Kindle download, I also tucked into Rattlesnake, the latest instalment of the Gabriel Wolfe series of thrillers by fellow copywriter Andy Maslen. Think Jack Reacher and it’s in that kind of mould. Not quite Lee Child but a ripping read, nevertheless.
And I’m also working my way through crime thrillers by the brilliant Jo Nesbo. Nemesis and The Son are both excellent. Clever plots, great characters and cracking pace.
These types of books are called page-turners. And they are called that for a reason. Once people pick up the books and begin to read, they find them hard to put down.
The more I read, the more I pick up about how to tell a story.
The perfect way to spend cold winter’s evenings. Book number 10 is already on the go (another crime thriller).