What does that mean, to read like a writer? It means that you have an entire university of writing instruction sitting right on your bookshelves . . . if you’ll just take the time to pay attention to those stacks of books.

When we read as readers, we enjoy the story and become engrossed in the characters’ lives. We want to know what happens! Reading as a writer differs in that you pay attention not just to the story’s plot and characters but to the craft behind the plot and characters. How do these develop?

When I want more information on how to develop a character, I’ll choose two or three novels which feature some of my favorite characters such as The Fault in our Stars (or anything by John Green) or the Harry Potter novels. Similarly, when I want to know how to craft a fast-paced, suspenseful plot, I’ll choose a book like The Hunger Games or any of Harlan Coben’s mysteries.

Then, I create a set of questions to ask as I review the novel. The questions change based on what I’m looking for, but I’m essentially reading as a writer, seeing what I notice about how the element I’m looking at is crafted. Then, I take notes as I re-read the story or a certain part of the story.

For example, if I want to look at character development, I might read with the following questions in mind:

  • How is this character introduced?
  • How are they described? Is the description embedded in the action or is there a specific part devoted to their looks?
  • What does this character want?
  • How is that goal conveyed?
  • What makes this character’s life difficult? (Who wants to read about perfect people?)
  • What is most important to this character? How is that conveyed?
  • What makes this character special? How is that conveyed?

This is just a brief list, but hopefully it gives you some ideas as to how you can approach your own creative writing and figure out how truly amazing authors do it.

What books do you think would be worthwhile “studies” in terms of developing as a writer? Share your favorites in the comments below.

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  1. […] You can really look at any sections of dialogue in your favorite novels and break it down. It's all about reading like a writer. […]

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