Summer brings on thoughts of “Summer Reading” book lists gleaned from all those years that I taught high school students. I have pleasant memories of searching for books my students might enjoy, and in sharing my own excitement about new discoveries.
Readers like to read, not only to escape, but also to learn new things, to get a sense of history, to imagine what another life might have been for them in a different time and place. Reading a good book relieves stress; I sleep better when I’ve followed the adventures and emotions of other lives. I also read to study interesting techniques that successful writers use. Most successful writers are avid readers.
Author Jesse Lee Kercheval writes about what brings readers back to read a particular author or to even reread a beloved book. She says that readers like to learn new things, but authentic,
interesting details also draw readers back. She also says that writers have a responsibility to do enough research to build credibility.
Kercheval says that the power of setting, that is the ‘telling’ details of time and place, which drives plot is essential, so that readers can connect, relate to and believe the truth of a story.
Kercheval says, “Readers appreciate familiar things, sharply observed.” Writers take the ordinary and describe it “lovingly, wittily, with great care” and this makes the experience or moment or person unforgettable. A story or a novel benefits from having something in it that readers have never quite seen before, and that a reader or editor finds he/she can’t quite forget. Readers love it when a book has some telling detail, image or event that is both unusual and memorable.
If you want to write, it helps if you are a reader and you know what you like to read. You won’t be able to write for everyone, but you will write for some, if you remember what it is that all readers seek.
If you would like to talk about a book, send an email to me and I will collect these, edit a bit, if necessary, before posting your comments on the first Tuesday of each month, under the title, READERS TALK. Send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2012 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Spring 2013 Issues of Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers. Learn more at: