The mourning dove perched on the edge of the bird bath, dipped her head and drank. When the dove flew away, the blue jay winged in, scooped water into her bill and tilted her head back to let the water run down her throat. The different methods of drinking made us curious, so we did a bit of research and discovered that mourning birds and pigeons can draw water up through their bill, while most other birds cannot. Will we ever use this fact in our writing? Maybe, though we’re not sure the answer matters. We like to learn, and we think learning is fun, especially when birds are involved.
In our writing, we learn by observing a different fine-feathered friend – the published author. Here are four things we learned from best-selling books we have recently read.
1. Stopping is as important as starting. When we found ourselves flipping pages to skip over extraneous information in a recent best-seller, we went back to find out why. In most cases, the parts we skimmed were devoid of action. At a certain point in every story, we feel we already know the characters, and we’re not interested in additional personality-revealing conversation or observations.
2. Timing matters. In one best-seller, the hero’s non-superpowered side-kick didn’t have enough time to recover from a harrowing experience, obtain transportation, and arrive on-scene. We got so interested in figuring out if the timing could work that the final scene lost its impact.
3. Suspended disbelief has limits. Even in a fictional world, some events are too far-fetched. For example, we were not convinced that a hero could awaken from a coma, and immediately rise from the hospital bed and throw a villain over a fifth-floor railing.
4. Outdated style is a stumbler. If you’ve ever read an older book, you may have noticed odd wording or what appear to be over-long paragraphs. Styles and reader preferences change over time. While a best-selling author may not need to adopt current trends or take the advice of copyeditors, we find it disconcerting to stumble over unnecessary adverbs and those dreaded extra commas.
Do you notice inconsistencies in best-sellers as you read them? Has the practice helped your writing? Let us know in the comments.
Florida-based mother/daughter author duo HL Carpenter writes sweet, clean fiction that is suitable for everyone in your family. The Carpenters write from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue. When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Visit HLCarpenter.com to enjoy gift reads and excerpts and to find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country.
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