Stephen King–who once lived here in Boulder–has said that if you want to become a writer, you must do two things above all else: write a lot and read a lot. But how you read is even more important than what you read. It’s so important to read with purpose, to constantly be asking yourself: why this word, and not that; why this action or description and not that; why this scene and not that; to understand that every author on every page is making hundreds of choices, and is using techniques that you may not yet have mastered. To read with purpose deepens your understanding of the work in front of you, and it multiplies your pleasure–really! Reading in this way turns every book into a masterclass taught personally to you by some of the best authors in the world.
I call this type of reading Literary Forensics.
Storytelling is an art, but it’s not a mystery. Every writer must address the following:
- Structure, Timeline, Pacing, Suspense, Omission
- Point of View, including Voice, Character, Place
- Tense, Argot, Imagery, Metaphor, Symbols
- Motivation: Making a story pop – generating a thrill
- Why this story? And why now? Industry considerations beyond packaging and marketing
Learn more about what goes into Literary Forensics here:
And I’ve founded a reading group for like-minded writers who want to practice Literary Forensics called Writers Who Read. We meet in Boulder, Colorado, almost every month, and we’re sponsored by the Boulder Writers Alliance. At each meeting we dissect a recent novel (published within the past 18 months) with the goal of uncovering how the author has utilized their skills for effect. By learning as much as we can from critically-acclaimed or best-selling novels, we can then apply that knowledge to our own writing.
We ask that all attendees read the novel in advance of the meeting, and come bearing their discoveries of how the author has addressed each of the five points above. Links to all source materials comprising Literary Forensics can be found on the Literary Forensics Resources page.
So join us already. When we meet, it’s on the first Sunday of the month, somewhere around downtown Boulder, Colorado. Please sign up to attend on Meetup. If that doesn’t work for you, please contact me so I can save you a spot. The complete list of upcoming (and past) books is here.
I’d love to meet you!