I’m currently writing "False Flag," a sequel to “The Awakening of Artemis.” Writing a novel is an intense and time-consuming process. Nevertheless, I also find time to read when I am writing. And, when I read, I endeavor to read great writers. I highlight passages from their books that I find compelling to serve as writing prompts. I am inspired by descriptions that bring scenes to life and inner monologue that enlivens characters. In “Malibu Rising,” a bestseller by Taylor Jenkins Reid, there were passages that nearly brought me to tears. I find such writing inspirational and humbling at the same time. Ms. Reid’s writing is both elegant and simple. She can convey a sense of character and attitude in very few words, as she does here:
Sure, your neighbor might be in a few movies, but Malibu was a place to live, like any other. It was where you brushed your teeth and burned dinner and ran errands, just with a view of the Pacific. Someone should tell them all, Nina thought, paradise doesn’t exist.
Another author whose ability leaves me in awe is Sharon Bolton. This passage from her book “Dead Woman Walking” describes location, weather, and sensation all in one brief paragraph. Just reading it makes me feel cold:
Evenings in late September are short and chill, and the sky turned quickly from dove grey to charcoal. Damp seemed to sit in the air. Trees she passed shook icy droplets down, bushes smeared her with cold. Even the mud beneath her feet seemed to covet her shoes, sucking and grasping with every step, trying to pull them off her feet.
Often, a single sentence can create a mental picture that sets the tone for a book. In “A Gentleman in Moscow,” the main character is a Russian Count on the eve of the Soviet revolution. In a single sentence, author Amor Towles tells you everything you need to know about his protagonist:
Tall and thin, with a narrow head and superior demeanor, he looked rather like a bishop that had been plucked from a chessboard.
The book publishing industry has exploded in the online era—the era of Kindles and iPads. It’s a challenge to find good books among the not-so-good. I am constantly scouring websites for what to read next. And, like any avid reader, I am active on social media—Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.com. I just started Sleepwalk by Dan Shaon, a book I learned about on NPR’s daily Book of the Day podcast. I have found that if I enjoy listening to the author, I’ll usually enjoy the book. And so I am.
What about you? What are you reading?