Literature to Improve Your Writing

One of the cardinal rules of writing, as any writer will tell you, is that to be a writer you must also be a reader. A reader with empathy, curiosity, honesty, and drive. Seeing examples of your own trade, as with any other trade, will help you to improve your own craft. But what should you read?

I find creativity through structure. I plan and plan and plan and when I pick up a book, it’s usually because I want something from it. I do enjoy books just to enjoy them, to explore and all that. But sometimes I just want a really good example of extended metaphor! Sometimes I want to see new tricks for dialogue. Sometimes I’m reading for such a specific reason, that I’d really like to know what I ought to be reading.

So, for all the other ridiculously structure writers and readers out there, I’d like to recommend a number of books that helped me work on specific parts of my own writing.

Extended Metaphor: Beloved by Toni Morrison

From the back of the book:

Sethe. Proud and beautiful, she escaped from slavery but is haunted by its heritage – from the fires of the flesh to the heartbreaking challenges to the spirit. Set in rural Ohio several years after the civil war, this profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath is Toni Morrison’s greatest novel[.]

Toni Morrison makes use of images including Christianity, a tin tobacco box, and nature in order to explain the emotions related to slavery, motherhood, and hope. There is beautifully drawn metaphor on every single page, making this a must for poets and prose writers alike. Your writing will thank you for it.

Developing Relationships: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

From the back of the book:

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt […] It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down that walls that Ari has built around himself. But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives[.]

An honest coming of age story that chronicles the twists and turns of both friendship and romantic relationships, this book brilliantly captures honest relationships between people. This is a great read, and a great example of character development for writers who write about people.

Twisting and Turning Plot: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

From the back of the book:

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written.

It is, essentially, a book about a book about an author. So, as one might expect, plot on plot on plot on plot. While the writing style will have you trapped in this book from the first page, the real star of this book is Zafon’s masterful storytelling. This is a must for any lover of literature, but long form fiction writers in particular will appreciate the twists and turns the story takes.

What books have helped you become a better writer? Let me know in the comments below!


One thought on “Literature to Improve Your Writing

  1. Pingback: Reading for Writing | Examples of Great Characterization | Scribbles in the Margin

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