Days of Our Reading Lives: This Rock, Part I

Inspired by Pat Conroy’s The Reading Life, I created a new themed post, Days of Our Reading Lives.

Why is it important?

Reading for a writer is sensual. It is an endurance of an author’s passion over a long period of time much like a strong relationship. Books connect you to people, open new doors and relationships you never expected.

Had John, my husband, not introduced me to Robert Heinlein, I would lack an improved understanding of how a Science Fiction author explored love.

As fellow blogger, Pete Denton, wrote in his recent post “Research,” reading in your genre will help you polish your craft as a writer.

Courtesy of http://www.tower.com

This Rock

A few weeks ago, I went to the library and researched books set in the nineteen twenties and thirties about teen boys. I was interested in stories about characters outside of Chicago and New York, because I’d read many of those books. Since Chicago in the Roaring Twenties is an entirely different subject, I wanted to focus on rural themes and a good read.

When I selected This Rock, I did not realize it was part of series. I was able to read it without having to read its predecessors. Introduced to author Robert Morgan – a native of North Carolina – you could tell his natural poetic voice carried into the prose about the Cain and Able struggles of brothers Muir and Moody living with their mother, Ginny.

Pick Your Narrator

I experienced the flow of literary fiction mixed with descriptions of nature and two rich main characters. Surprisingly the duel P.O.V. was not what I expected. The author switched back and forth between the mother and son, Muir. I thought this was odd, since the description focused a lot on the bootlegging brother, Moody.

Some characters authors do not wish to examine too closely. Moody was one of those characters, and as a reader, I yearned to know more about him.

Duel P.O.V. is a tough thing to pull off in a book along with deciding the direction in which you will go with your narrator.

I’ve read contemporary authors who write from the P.O.V. of many characters, such as Joanna Trollope. I believe it is a way to stay connected to the ability of a story to be examined in multiple aspects.

Morgan writes in first person. As the novel continues, he tells the story more from Muir’s P.O.V.

The original editor who worked with me told me not to write my book in first person or from one point of view. I chose third person dual P.O.V., and it has taken time to clean it up. I learned how to become the pit crew for my book by reading books like This Rock.

Your brain begins moving with the story: Wow, this is awesome, or What was the author thinking here?

My husband says you’re supposed to read books for enjoyment. Yes, you are, but I think writers naturally analyze them. How P.O.V. is done in books like This Rock will work the narration part of your brain.

I believe Morgan should have written chapters from Moody’s point of view because I think – as a reader – he was more of a counterbalance to Muir than was Ginny. That said, I know why Morgan decided not to write from his point of view.

In Sons of the Edisto, I write from the P.O.V. of JD and Owen. They are opposites in their view of the world. One boy, JD, believes shoes and name brand bikes say a lot about a boy. Owen looks down the train tracks wondering how long it would take him to get to Michigan to meet Henry Ford.

Bootlegging, Science and God

The other lesson I examined in This Rock was how Morgan wrote about bootlegging. The one time in the book when the mother Ginny entered bootlegger Peg Early’s place, I was entranced. I wanted to know more. Unfortunately, Peg Early appeared in one scene.

Morgan focused on Christianity much more than I do in my own writing. Again, I believe it goes with what the author fits into his or her narration. His main character, Muir, wants to become a preacher.

As a Southern writer, I understand the importance religion can play in stories whether good or bad. My main character, Owen, wants to enter the field of science and looks at the future. What I learned from Muir is how he became disillusioned with his dream when he messed up.

That is essential to all young characters. They mess up at some point.

How do you, as the author, make them relatable?

How do you ground them?

Are they closer to religion, art or science?

How do you narrate their story?

The questions are within the pages you read.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson


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5 thoughts on “Days of Our Reading Lives: This Rock, Part I

  1. Jill London April 22, 2013 at 3:52 AM Reply

    I agree, writers do analyse what they’re reading, how else can we write! :-) Thanks Rebecca for sharing your thoughts here, it’s good to see how others are working things out ;-)
    Found your blog through twitter btw, so glad I did!

    • rtd14 April 28, 2013 at 6:53 AM Reply

      Jill,

      I apologize for a late reply. I am working on getting back to a regular blog schedule.

      Thank you for your follow and support! :) I’m glad you found my blog, too!

      Reading stirs the creative waters. I would not know how to write without reading books. Books alone teach writers and authors more about writing than anything else, including poorly written books.

      Thank you again, ~ Rebecca

  2. Vikki Thompson April 22, 2013 at 7:59 AM Reply

    Wow Becca…..im going to look into Pat Conroy now :)

    Now I’m a writer i tend to OVER analyse books i read, to the point where im not sure i enjoy them as much :(

    xx

    • rtd14 April 28, 2013 at 6:56 AM Reply

      I try to let myself become just a reader in someone else’s world. I just started The Kite Runner and I’m already hooked. The author’s prose are unbelievable.

      Pat Conroy put story behind the books he read. He spoke a lot about his growth with Thomas Wolfe; why literary critics hate Thomas Wolfe and why he adored Wolfe. He said as he grew up he began to understand some of the criticism, but not the the point Wolfe played a role in the influence of his writing. Of all the authors you’ve written about in the ABC challenge, who would you say has been the most influential?

      ~ Becca

      • Vikki Thompson April 28, 2013 at 10:18 AM

        Oooooo, that’s a really hard question lol. The author who I feel most inspired by, intrigued by, and connected to (I’ve just scheduled my Y and Z posts so I’ve done all 26 now) is…… John Updike! :) But the writer I most want to explore is tomorrow’s Y post.

        The most influential, on writers in general? Hmmmm, I’d say George Orwell and Hemingway, but that is just my personal opinion :)

        Xx

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