The voice of fiction

A strange thing happened when the holidays arrived in my house. I mean besides the kids being home and the bank account being depleted by Christmas purchases. I unintentionally put aside my nonfiction obsession and picked up fiction books. Wow! Because my current writing projects are research-heavy nonfiction, I regularly pour over great nonfiction books day and night to analyze style, voice, format, etc. Besides the reading I do for research.

The holidays commanded a break from my writing routine. But, I couldn’t possibly stop reading. That would be like not breathing. So, I grabbed novels that had embarassingly sat on my shelves unread for longer than I care to admit.

Like taking a well earned vacation, joining the adventures of Maniac Magee, Stargirl, Clementine, and Fudge-o-Mania offered the perfect retreat from my fact-filled routine. (Clementine had me cackling.) I relished the voices, the structures, the story arcs, the antics, the surprises, and the diversity of each novel. Could it be that my nonfiction brain learned a thing or two from these fiction authors? I also purchased J.K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard which, unfortunately, I wasn’t thrilled with (for the record, I love the Harry Potter books.)

My favorite nonfiction books read like novels, so why have I neglected this important genre as a “training tool” for my brain? Jim Murphy’s Great Fire, and Marc Aronson’s Real Revolution would keep even the most avid fiction reader glued to the book. It’s all about voice and structure, right? Every nonfiction person or event unfolded through a true story. I need to keep reminding myself of the story part.

So, I’ll be reading more fiction and poetry in 2009, while plugging away at my nonfiction projects. And, for all my fiction author friends, if I haven’t picked up a copy of your books yet, I will soon.

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