Scott D. Parker
How many of y’all writers out there read for research?
Now, I’m not talking about actual research, where you scour the internet or books to make sure you have your facts correct for a historical piece or to verify which bullets go into the gun your hero carries for a thriller. I’m talking about reading other fiction books with a writer’s mind involved.
For awhile now, I’ve read hard copies with a pencil in my hand and I will mark up the book as I go along. I circle various passages or great turns of phrase. This is especially true when I read westerns because I gather a growing list of “western words” that I can deploy in my own writing.
But I also study how books are constructed. How many chapters? How many sub-chapters? How many pages/words per chapter? How many pages over all? How many total words? A few years ago, I broke down the first 100 pages of THE DA VINCI CODE to figure out why it’s such a page-turner. It’s really not rocket science.
As fine as this practice is, it can also lead to reading *only* for research. For example, I’m in western-writing mode in 2017. That’s what I’m reading (mostly) and writing. Thus, the desire to read only westerns is quite strong. But other books are pulling at my attention. I selected the new Donald Westlake novel, FOREVER AND A DEATH, for my book club so I’m reading it. BEACH LAWYER by Avery Duff is also on my Kindle. The oddball is a book by Jim Beard written in the G.I. Joe Adventure Team Kindle Worlds Universe, MYSTERY OF THE SUNKEN TOMB. A fellow book club member recommended it to me. I’ve read a bit and it pretty darn good.
Which reminded me of the reason I (and all of us) read in the first place: for pleasure. A good story told well is a great pleasure to experience. So I’ve put my pencil down for a bit and engage in some pure summer reading for no other purpose than to enjoy myself.
Y’all ever run up against the conundrum of reading for pleasure vs. research?