• The Books That Stick With Us

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 39 comments
    Feb
    13

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you reach your creative potential. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres. Browse our book coachingmanuscript consultation, and publication assistance services, and sign up for your free writing consultation today.

     

    Discussion questions: When you think about the books that have a long-lasting impact on you, what stands out about them? Do those books have anything in common? How do you work to create those same effects in your own writing? Let’s discuss in the comments.

     

    In this week’s episode of Yak Babies, “Books & Memories,” we talk about the reasons why a particular story or book might stick with us, and for how long.

    When you think about the books that have a long-lasting impact on you, what stands out about them? Do those books have anything in common? How do you try to create those same effects in your own work? Let’s discuss in the comments.

     

    Aaron kicks off the episode with his thoughts: “I’m almost always stuck on the ending of stories,” he says. “And that applies to both reading and writing: When I work on my own writing, the ending is what matters the most to me. I really want to stick the ending. So a story that has a good ending really hits me.”

    Meanwhile, our co-host Brick looks for the vibes a book gives off: “There’s some books where the atmosphere sticks with me more than the actual plot,” he says. Which can lead to moments, days or weeks or months later, “Where you get zapped back to that book for a second. There are certain scenes that burn in some books, and they just stick with me.”

    “That [emotional] connection, when you can get it, is the best,” Aaron adds. “As a writer, you want to give that experience to someone else; the best motivation for writing is to have someone feel that way about your own work.”

     

    For me, much of it is about the feelings/emotions a good book can leave me with: “Often I don’t remember the contents of a book or story as much as I remember the feeling I had when I read it, or was left with after I read it,” I say on the show.

    Also, where I read a book plays a role in how it affects me: “I’m much more inclined to remember … the experience of reading the book if I’m doing it somewhere other than just my couch at home.”

    Sometimes those two concepts come together to create a memorable experience. A few months after my dad died I took a weekend getaway to Mexico, where on the beach I devoured George Saunders’s novel Lincoln in the Bardo. That unique setting, combined with the fact that the book kicked the emotional hell out of me, creating a reading experience I may not ever forget.

    “I can’t remember a whole lot about the plot,” I tell my pals on the show, “but I remember — I can even feel it now, just thinking about it — the feeling in my stomach as I was reading that book, and then when I finished it.”

     

    What about you? What makes a book stick in your mind and memory long after you’ve finished reading it? Feel free to offer a few examples. And do you try to offer these same effects to readers of your own work? Tell me about it below!

     

    david blogWriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2021 writing project you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. If you have a manuscript that’s ready for some editorial care, check out our various critiquing, editorial, and proofing servicesFor your FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer, join our mailing list

    5 2 votes
    Article Rating
    Subscribe
    Notify of
    guest
    39 Comments
    Oldest
    Newest Most Voted
    Inline Feedbacks
    View all comments
    Raymundo

    This is a neat subject and a great YB episode. I can amen the points you and the YBs have made. When I’m moved by a book it is inevitably on several levels. I perceive associations that resonate. My goto example is “Lost Horizon” where I identify with the protagonist (Conway), connect with the location and time (the wider and wilder world of the 1930s), love the images (friends discussing stimulating topics over cigars and whiskey), and find the themes compelling (Beauty is “…a fragile thing that can only live where fragile things are loved.”) How much I like a… Read more »

    MJ DelConte

    Wow, I kind of want to copy and paste Raymundo’s answer.

    MJ DelConte

    Like Raymundo, I find myself deeply moved by the currents of a novel and especially enjoy when I have to hold on for dear life at the end. Anyone building a story can go through the motions (think along the lines of James Bond novels because they are essentially the same novel retold in different ways), which does not necessarily make them bad, but sometimes you just want to grab a novel where the back third is like jamming a penny in a socket. Where anything can happen and the author isn’t afraid to go there, when you’re most vulnerable.… Read more »

    MJ DelConte

    The most recent novels to turn my legs into a veritable vat of Smuckers would have to be by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Still Life with Crows, Brimstone, and, what the hell, throw in the 4 Gideon Crew series – (spoiler) the main character dies in the end. I’m listening to the tenth book in Richard Kadrey’s “Sandman Slim” series on audiobook (read by MacLeod Andrews) and Stark has me chomping at the bit. Its heady, masculine, laugh-out-loud hilarious, and perfect for anyone who loves explosions, R-rated situations, magic, Heaven, Hell, and a range of characters who are good,… Read more »

    david lemke

    For a book to stick, there needs to be two forces at work; your mind set as you are reading that book, and the book itself. The first book I read for me as a kid, was “The Black Cloud,” A si-fi I had to turn back in before I was finished and didn’t find it again until 20 years later. I still can easily retrieve the images it conjured. After my appetite was wetted by that book I feasted. We were somewhat poor at the time, so my dad shopped occasionally at the Goodwill. They had a great supply… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    For me, it’s all about the character. Without that protagonist that you can relate to, you have no vibes, emotion, or ending to worry about. If you can’t become that character, feeling, seeing and experiencing what they are going through, you have nothing. a flat, who cares exposition that I’ll put down and never finish. Make me feel what the character is feeling, and I’m there with you. It’s all about escaping into someone else’s world and staying there for me that makes a book unputdownable.

    Barbara Mealer

    A character with relatable flaws and has foibles like normal people. Evalle of the Belador series is like that. Eve Dallas series written by JD Robb. There there are the classics by Daphne De Maurier, Louisa May Alcott, and then there is Kya of Where the Crawdads Sing. Most have a flaw that you can relate to. Each character is believable, unique and relatable to where you want to follow them and see where the author takes you. With a good character, there really isn’t a story. I may not remember the plot, or even the MC’s name, but I… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    Kelly Lancaster. She is an older lady of 50. Her husband died of cancer and she is estranged from her two sons. She decides after being dumped by Cal Sanderson to do the trip to Alaska she an her husband had planne don doing. She Meets Rafael (Rafe) Sanderson while traveling, not aware of his last name or relationship with Cal until Cal shows up and she has to explain how she knows Cal. Long story short, She and Rafe fall in love but it isn’t until she almost loses her life in an accident that things begin to fall… Read more »

    Barbara Mealer

    I was there, but it was wet, under construction and extremely muddy so I couldn’t do it with the trike. But I did fly around Denali and got to see Columbia Glacier and some Orcas and this absolutely beautiful stated called Alaska.

    Elissa Malcohn

    “I can’t remember a whole lot about the plot…but I remember — I can even feel it now, just thinking about it — the feeling in my stomach as I was reading that book, and then when I finished it.” That describes me, too. I can point to a book and say I loved it, but ask me what it was about and I usually haven’t a clue. The books that stay with me meld characterization, world-building, and story arc in such a way that they interact tightly with and affect each other (the environment itself becomes a character) and are also… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    Crouch’s line later in that paragraph resonates with me: “How much of reading, then, is just a kind of narcissism — a marker of who you were and what you were thinking when you encountered a text?” I wonder whether I would feel the same about Marge Piercy’s Small Changes and Arnold Zweig’s The Case of Sergeant Grischa if I had not read each at a time that dovetailed with turning points in my own life. (In particular, a single line in the Zweig leapt out at me like a thousand-watt bulb.) Crouch’s bit about Tabby in A High Wind in Jamaica… Read more »

    Silke

    The Little Prince be Antione de St Exupery is a little story that always moves me because of the excellent development of the two characters. Another book I have read over again is Among the Living, by Ayn Rand. The development of the MC and especially the atmosphere, the way it makes me feel, gets me.

    Silke

    I would love to develop memorable characters, and I do work at it.

    Susan

    When I was just starting college, the book I couldn’t put down was The Once and Future King. I read it even while walking to class, on the bus, waiting in line at the co-op. It was everything–the archetypal legend, the hero’s journey, the magic realism and how he made an old legend new by making the characters so really human with thoughts and feelings and struggles and pain and wisdom and failure. I think the book was therapy for me, being of that generation whose “one brief shining moment” was cut short so brutally by one brief horrifying moment… Read more »

    Susan

    I can’t say I remember too many specific moments of reading that particular book because I read a lot of books that way during those years, but that was my favorite. I do recall once reading it while walking down the sidewalk, though, and a guy asked me what I was reading and I was nervous telling him because I thought it wouldn’t be counterculture enough or something.

    Susan

    Everyone looked a counterculture kind of dude back then in Madison. Paul Soglin was the mayor, and he looked like Al Pacino in Serpico. I was intimidated by all the social and political awareness there, and all the ‘beautiful people.’

    Sid Kemp

    This is a great question, David, and the variety of answers show just how unique each writer’s muse is. How wonderful a world where writers are inspired by so many different things. I’ve actually been thinking about this for a few years, and I know my answer. I haven’t shared it with many people yet, because I only know how to share it with people who are familiar with some obscure branches of psychology and mysticism. Will you take a short journey with me? We’ll start with Carl Jung’s framework of a collective unconscious. What if there is a shared… Read more »

    Sid Kemp

    Thanks for Jungleland, David. It touches something in me on this very issue, the very gritty, real, physical, violent, and sexual dimension of creative arts. (More Freud than Jung, but the body is like that some nights.) How do I incorporate. I have done and will keep doing a few things: A realization that I’m trying for something very high and demanding, and thus forgiving myself for spending 5 decades learning to write before starting to publish fiction. Of course, just reading these writers. When I ask, “How can I do X?” in my own stories, I say, “how did… Read more »

    Sid Kemp

    Thanks for the reminder. We’ve talked about this before. Many writers can never do this, especially if the piece is finished and published. Many actors can never watch a performance, including many great ones. (See https://www.insider.com/actors-that-dont-watch-their-own-movies-2020-1.) I think three issues are at work. Are you reading as a critic, or to enjoy the piece? Are you caring that you are the one that wrote it? And is the topic of the piece of interest and value to you now? To put that last in another way, if this piece were not written by you, would it be what you are… Read more »

    Sid Kemp

    Yup. A simpler version is, “If I write this by myself, I save myself bullying and being ridiculed.”




    Latest Tweets


    39
    0
    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
    ()
    x