better storytelling

I blogged earlier about how good writers are also good readers. Even reading something that you absolutely hate can help you refine your craft.

Today, I want to explore a similar topic?how there are some stories that reach out and really grab you, stories that make you want to be a better storyteller yourself.

These inspiring authors and titles will be different?and should be different?for each writer. Otherwise, things would get really boring pretty darn quickly.

Currently, I’m immersed in several books. It’s not unusual for me to read more than one title at a time, but what’s interesting is that two of these books right now?Fringe-ology: How I Tried to Explain Away the Unexplainable?And Couldn’t, by Steve Volk; and Calculating God, by Robert J. Sawyer?are oddly complementary. I really didn’t plan it this way.

Reading these two books side-by-side has been pushing me even harder to write a very personal blog post that I’ve been mulling over for a good long while now. Confessions of . . . an Interfaith Minister? . . . a Skeptical Jewitch? . . . a Spiritual Atheist? But sitting in thought this overcast, rainy afternoon?and I mean, come on! there’s a partial eclipse today! how can it be cloudy?!?I realized that one of the reasons I’ve been so absorbed in these books is that they make me want to be a better storyteller.

I’ve reacted to Sawyer’s work this way before, but Calculating God in particular?and coming into my reading space so close on the heels of another excellent read: John Scalzi’s Zoe’s Tale?is having a profound effect on me. Sure, I love the exploration of religion and science at the story’s core, and am struck by the difference between the conversations in Calculating God and those at the heart of Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parallax. But just the way Sawyer and others of my favorite authors have honed their craft to be able to almost seamlessly weave questions of science, spirituality, morality, politics, and mortality into a gripping tale that also incorporates very real (but deftly incorporated) lessons in astronomy, physics, mathematics, and more . . . well, it just leaves me breathless.

When I read a story like this, I do feel my own shortcomings as a writer. But I also?more importantly?feel excited about working to become a better storyteller myself.

So if you’ve ever read something that left you exhilarated and wanting more, don’t fall into the trap of getting down on yourself because you weren’t the one that wrote it. Instead, I feel that much happier that there’s such good material being written and shared, and I feel inspired to put the effort in to further developing my own craft.

What books have inspired you to stretch farther and reach higher to become better at what you do?

Posted in a reader muses, astronomy & science, writing & publishing.

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