I don't usually read James Patterson's books, but Sunday I finished reading his latest, Sail, "co-written" by Howard Roughan. It's about a family that goes on a two-month sailing trip and encounters disaster after disaster. The quote on the back says "Written with blistering pace and shocking twists… SAIL takes Lost and Survivor to a new level of terror."
Now, I wouldn't necessarily call Sail terrifying, but it was an exciting read and an interesting story. But I noticed something about the way I was reading that never used to happen to me -- anytime I got caught up in the story and whipped through four or five pages in a blur, I'd stop and marvel at the fact that printed words had me gasping for breath along with the characters.
How'd they (he) do that?
I'd flip back a couple pages and skim over what I'd just read to figure out (or deconstruct as some might call it) exactly how the author elicited a physical response from me, then see if there's a way to do that with my own writing. My current novel is certainly no thriller, but I have some tense scenes that leave my characters struggling for breath and I'd love to cause that reaction in the reader as well.
I have several writing friends who regularly analyze novels to get to the root of what the author is doing and see how they can learn from that process. It's always seemed like a lot of work to me, but for the first time I understand how it can be useful to me as a writer.
Thanks Mr. Patterson!
Do you analyze books that you read for pleasure, or do you keep your writing and reading minds separate?
My niece turns sixteen today, so if you live in Michigan, keep a close eye on your rearview mirror! Happy birthday!