Reading and Writing


My daughter is writing a short story for her English class. It is supposed to be historical fiction and she is writing about a girl who lives in a castle in Britain during the 1500s. I think it is simply an excuse for her to research knights, swords, and castles. Her main character runs away from home because she wants to be an artist instead of learning the usual womanly skills of the time. Celia is enjoying writing the story and I have been requested to regularly read the various drafts. She is doing a very good job on it, including a lot of description that gives a feeling of place and time. I commented on this last time I read it and she told me that she thinks it is easier to write if you are already a reader because then you know how a story works and what kind of details to include. She feels that if you don't like to read then you can't write well because you don't have the necessary knowledge.

Today I came across a quote by Stephen King. He said "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that." My daughter would agree with him and so would I.

Often when we talk about our love of reading we mention our love of stories. We say that we like to learn about other people or that we like to escape into a different world. Maybe we insist we like to read simply for reasons of entertainment. However, in actuality, we are not only being entertained; we are being taught. By reading we learn how to format a story, we learn about conflict and resolution, we become better at using proper grammar and spelling. By reading we learn about building suspense, the need for secondary characters, and the perfection inherent in just the right combination of words.

This does not mean all of us are going to become best-selling authors. If it was that easy I would be rich and famous by now. However, it does mean that a reader can format a better report and write a better letter. A reader can probably more easily tell a story to their child. A reader can write. Of course, a non-reader can learn to do these things as well but, in all likelihood, it will take a bit more time, a bit more effort. For a reader, the knowledge of how words and language work comes a little more naturally because when we read we are not only taking in the story; we are taking in the mechanics of the story as well.

So, go, read a book. Fiction or non-fiction, fluff or serious tome, it is all educational. My daughter says so.

4 comments

  1. Your Celia is so right. I like your choice of Dorothy Dunnett too, she's great at description and atmosphere.

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    1. She is so good at that. I am rereading the Lymond Chronicles. I raced through them so quickly the first time that I feel I missed a lot.

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  2. Your daughter is very smart! I totally agree. I've learned how to write from reading, but we also learn so much about places we've neve been, eras we've never lived, and how people work.

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    1. Then, all we learn about people and places when we read improves our writing.

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