Monday, September 14, 2015

More Than Just A Hobby

     I've had my nose buried in a book since I was a kid. I used to bring a book to the dinner table and read while we were eating. My mom let that fly until I spilled my milk all over the table because I couldn't be bothered to take my eyes off the book to look at what I was doing.
     I spent all my allowance on books.
     I stayed up late and read with a flashlight long after I was supposed to be asleep.
     I'd hide books underneath my desk so I could read during class.
     Reading has always been so much more than just a way to pass the time. It isn't at all like watching a movie or a television show. The story comes alive in my imagination. I get emotionally invested in the characters. They become real people who exist in some alternate dimension somewhere.
     When a book is really amazing, I become its slave.
     At certain times, like when I have to go to work, get up early, cook dinner, or do something else responsible, this slavery can be annoying. But most of the time, it's pretty awesome. The story makes me feel as though I too am a part of something special, something great.
     Books I really love take up residence in my mind for days or even weeks after I've read them. I love re-reading my favorite stories, because I always find myself noticing details that I hadn't noticed the first time around.
     The downside to becoming emotionally invested in a story is when the book does not end in a favorable way. This can leave me feeling down and depressed for several days.
     I love fantasy, paranormal, the occasional sci fi, mysteries, and thrillers. I'm a sucker for a good love story, though straight up romance novels tend to bore me. The stories that get to me the most are ones that dig deep into the human condition, show strong emotional bonds, and makes me think deeply about the gray areas of life. That must mean I like literary fiction, right? No. It tends to bore me. But genre fiction is not all fun and whimsy. There are many genre fiction novels with literary components and deep messages lurking around with the vampires and aliens and magical creatures.
     One of my favorite books when I was in my early twenties was Stephen King's It. Yep. A horror novel. I'm not so much into horror anymore, but this one remains a favorite. Why do I love it so much? Sure, that creepy clown and all that stuff about floating was awesome, but what pulled at my heartstrings was the profound friendship between the main characters. They had a bond so deep and beautiful that it stretched across decades and was still in tact after years of no contact. It reminded me of the bond I had with my two best friends in high school, and I am hoping to portray a similarly strong bond with my MC's in my own work in progress.
     Yesterday I finished Ally Condie's Matched. It's part of my quest to devour popular YA fiction in order to learn how to properly write it myself. I almost didn't keep reading this book. It started out being so ridiculously similar to Lois Lowry's The Giver that I was getting annoyed. I could not figure out why it was a bestseller. But, I hate starting books and not finishing them, so I kept reading, and I'm really glad I did. As Condie developed her world it became more unique, the MC showed growth (I love it when this happens), and a profound love story unfolded.
     It's this crazy emotional attachment to reading that makes me so excited to write my own stories. Despite the emotional roller coaster, books make me happy. They give me more than just something to do. They take me places and make think and feel things that I may not have otherwise felt. This is what I aim to achieve in my own writing. I want my books to keep people up all night reading. I want them to make people cry, laugh, and feel love and joy. I want to give back some of what has been given to me.