Legend has it that Michelangelo conducted autopsies to heighten his understanding, and thus his art, of the human body. Fiction writers must also conduct autopsies, though their subjects are stories. Compelling, intricate, luscious stories.
I’m reading and watching a lot of fiction as I prepare to write Where the Light Enters during National Novel Writing Month. As I read and watch, I sketch the story. At the end of every scene, I answer these questions:
- Whose POV is represented?
- What happens?
- What did I learn about the characters and the story?
- What were the interesting turns of phrase and images?
- What did I learn about the characters through their actions?
- How did it end?
- What questions am I asking that move me to keep reading and watching?
At the end, I answer these questions:
- What was the story about?
- What happened?
- Who’s story is it?
- Do I care and if so, why?
- What questions remain?
- Did I get what was promised at the beginning of the story? And what was it?
This exercise is immensely valuable and fun.Like Indiana Jones, an archeologist who digs in the dirt for buried treasure, I’m discovering the bone structure, value, and meaning of the words that comprise page-turning books.
What have your learned about writing from reading?