Sunday, April 17, 2011

What reading fiction has done for my life and my profession

As I gaze at my TBR pile, both on my reading table and in my electronic queue, I ponder what reading fiction has done for me--and as they say in the mystery world, whodunit.
I have a list.
Bet you do, too.
Here, for your dancing pleasure, is mine. Not that it is complete for my part. Not that it is comprehensive for your part, but then this space is limited and you do not wish me to be a gas bag!
Here we go.
1. Fiction has taught me, from an early age, too, that life is complex. Humans are intricate creatures full of inexplicable emotions and motivations.
I use this sense of wonder to build characters I can believe in.
I learned this while reading Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and the Brontes. Jane Eyre got her backbone in the most time-honored way: she damn well earned it by sticking up for herself and not simply--simperingly--enduring!
2. Most humans have elements of the heroic in them. Even the villians. Especially them. After all, said an editor of mine once long ago, villains are the heroes of their own stories. Look at Sherlocke Holmes, very complex creature. Dracula. Phillipa Gregory's "heroine" of Wildacre. (Chills me, still.) I try to find the emotional reason and the logical reason to my characters' motivations. Especially those in my mystery series (under another name, dear reader). Picking out those finite bits of their operating structure is the most difficult thing I have to do. And I love it, I do. I confess.
3. I learned that history is an assembly of facts about how people lived their lives. Such reading has taught me to be in awe of them that they survived, and to value my own life. Plumbing. Gasoline in autos. Electricity. Air travel (really!). Newspapers, paper types and on-line. But more than feeling the history in fictional accounts, I have learned to appreciate the accurate depiction of facts. About then. And most especially about happenings now.
Thanks to reading history in fiction, I have come to value fact more than opinion. Where the fact is stated baldly, I thank people for the information. Where it comes with opinion attached, I take that with my grain of salt...and usually, like Julia Child sensing too much for the palate, I throw it over my shoulder.
4. Reading fiction has inspired me to revisit the history of the civil rights movement (The Help by Karen Stockett), to want to return to Japan where we once lived for a few glorious years (The Tale of Genji), to re-read about nurses in World War I in Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. Reading fiction has also taught me a whole lot about forensics, how to kill people--all totally useful info if I wish to spend my life in jail OR writing mysteries. (I like the latter.)
5. I find too that all those years I went to the library, took my children there as well as to the bookstores, that they are now involved in writing in one form or another. Our daughter, who loves to read any ANY ANY fictional account of Anne Boleyn and Henry, now writes for a famous CEO. Our second son, aside from the day job, writes and produces his own films. (I am writing a script with him, too! MY first film script. urgle.) Our oldest son, who accidentally passed away over a year ago, was a published poet. This last of having literate, articulate children tickles me like none of the above even begin to.
Okay! Enuf said the walrus!
What has reading fiction done for you????
We need to know so that we can feel satisfied and damn pleased with ourselves for seeing what really matters here.
(And yes, that book cover is my latest. A Regency period erotic romance. It is not only what I do, but clearly who I am!)

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