Read Think Write

Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for. (Socrates)

As all teachers know, the skills of reading and writing are interrelated. Reading informs writing. The better read a person is, the greater possibility that s/he will develop strong writing skills.

At my little Lutheran school we had a very poor library. I read nonfiction treasures about Davy Crockett and the Alamo to whet my appetite; meanwhile I wondered why we didn't have books that told similar stories to what I viewed on tv: Star Trek, Dr. Who, etc. Once I did discover that there were indeed books like this available . . . just not in our library or at the Christian book stores, I was resentful (so that chip you see on my shoulder? it's been there a long long time).

A whole world of sci-fi and fantasy opened up to me when I went to public school and checked out the library there. A ten-year-old discovered that the Christian subculture of the day was narrow in scope!

My mother and grandmother sent me off to the town recreation program for classes in crafts, acrylic painting, swimming, Little League . . . and writing. I was exposed to all these arts, but writing fiction met my artistic drive. And, I was good at it — well, in comparison to the results of my other classes: the Popsicle stick basket wasn't a huge success. While reading The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett), a book written nearly one hundred years previously, I thought wow, I'd like to do this — write a story that sweeps readers away into another place and time.

I was a voracious reader. I read for pleasure and I read for escape. I spent time in imaginary lands and fought off aliens all the while dreaming of one day writing my own story. As I grew older my reading selections took off in new directions and as I read I noticed the ways in which the novelist captured my attention. In high school I wrote short stories and employed some of these techniques. Some of my compositions may have resembled the Popsicle stick basket, but a couple were recognized by a teacher; both published in issues of a literary magazine for students and entered into a three-state competition. Oh, I was thrilled. Later when I was awarded first place at the U of Wisconsin Literary contest for one, my socks rolled up and down.

I've come a long way since that contest and have learned a lot about writing — not from classes or formal instruction — by reading (and critiquing*). Some studies in writing that I recommend are:

  • MaryLu Tyndall: action-pacing and conflict sweep the reader along; this woman's tales TWIST badder then Chubby Checker with an ice-cube in his shorts. The Restitution
  • Tricia Goyer: masterful at capturing human mannerisms with a pen. Arms of Deliverance
  • C.S. Lewis: the archetype for allegory. Chronicles of Narnia
  • MaryLu Tyndall: the strongest description comes with the use of verbs. Legacy of the King's Pirates
  • C.F. Freidman: effective hooks in opening and closing lines at every break. Black Sun Rising
  • George Orwell: subtle communication of theme that doesn't get in the way of the story. 1984
  • Alexandar Solzhenitsyn: description that makes the reader feel the sensory aspect of every scene. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch
  • Harry Harrison: expertly portrayed his protagonist so that the reader knows Slippery Jim like a close family member. The Stainless Steel Rat
  • Thomas Harris: in his elegantly portrayed Hannibal Lecter, Harris has created one of fiction's most humanized diabolical antagonists.

The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book (Samuel Johnson)

*Just like reading, there is no replacement for critiquing. Writers think the most valuable aspect of critiquing is advice on their own work. My most powerful lessons in the craft have come from critiquing the work of others, then reading the best critiquers' criticisms.

Frank Creed is a freelance writer, novelist and founder of the Lost Genre Guild.
A Frank Review


Happy President's Day?

Reflection on Patriotism by Lyn Perry

My dad would have turned 92 this past weekend. And, although he died a few years back, I still recognize the day and, to some extent, even celebrate his birthday. Why? Like any 'special' day, we remember certain dates because we connect them with particular feelings or sets of values that we want to remember. In my case, fond memories of a father (and mother, too) who loved me and provided for me.

Even when those feelings or values prompt more difficult memories - possibly pain or regret - we may still commemorate a certain day because of the positive lessons that can be learned from the historical event(s) or people it represents.

President's Day in the U.S. is one such example. It isn't as significant as it once was, but it does prompt me to thank God for the many strong and noble leaders that have led our country through difficult times - and to pray for our current President and those campaigning to become our next President so that our nation can continue to stand for justice, peace, and freedom.

There is a recent trend (a cyclical one I've noticed) that seeks to downplay any form of patriotism as imperialistic, chauvinistic, low-brow, and expressing unquestioning loyalty - just one step away from supporting a fascist regime. This, of course, is ridiculous. True patriotism is an expression of gratitude for the freedoms we do enjoy, recognizing that without the aid of Divine Providence and the sacrifice of noble men and women, we would not be able to celebrate such a day.

What does this have to do with writing or biblical speculative fiction or anything related to the communication arts? Well, it should be clear that without the freedoms gained in this country our ability to communicate in practically any form would be severely limited. So, although I mention my father's birthday, President's Day, and the topic of patriotism, I guess I'm really trying to say that I'm grateful for the opportunity these 'special days' afford me - the opportunity to write as God directs. I invite you to join me in taking advantage of our freedom and celebrate with me this holiday by writing what is on your heart.


Does Your Opinion Matter

Does Your Opinion Matter?

It seems no matter the topic individuals have opinions that run a gambit matching the diversity of the population. During these days when political rhetoric flies until we're neck high in it, people are encouraged to give their opinions. In fact, most of what people equate to political speeches these days are really not much more than opinion based on skewed facts used to not only support but to propagate that opinion.

Some people express opinions persuasively while others think opinions should be kept to themselves—especially if they deal with politics or religion. These two things are tied to the foundation of this country and I can't imagine what our forefathers might think if they heard such an absurd social tenet. If they had never discussed or publicly lived out their core beliefs…ahh now wait. That's the difference. Their "opinions" where based on core beliefs which they publicly lived. They weren't based on public opinion. It wasn't just a bunch of rhetoric…it was a way of life based on core beliefs that didn't shift. You meant what you said and backed it up with how you lived. What a great idea…

So does your opinion really matter in the long run? Probably not, unless it matches up with God's standard. In the end all opinions will be burned away and what will be left? God's Word.