Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Point of Thought

By Nichole Giles

Earlier this week, I reviewed a book on my other blog. The author, Rachel Ann Nunes, is not only a wonderful, sweet person, but also an excellent author whose stories really make a person think. Her most recent release, Saving Madeline, is one of those thought provoking reads. I finished the book within about two days (despite time taken to taxi children to soccer, piano, guitar, school, etc.) but have caught myself thinking about the characters and their circumstances ever since. What would I do in a given similar situation?

Next week, I’ll be reviewing another thought provoking book Alma, by H.B. Moore. (Same blog, different post). I realize that this book is unusual, as it’s based on scripture story that’s been fictionalized, but in Moore’s books, the characters become so real, the situations so harsh, that I can’t help but see these prophets and scripture characters as real people.

That sounds bad when I put it that way. But how often do you read scriptures and then think about the everyday lives of these people? The wives and children, homes, loved ones and the relationships between them all? Do you ever wonder what they ate for dinner? What their homes looked like or where they spent their days? Did they have jobs? Markets? How did they survive?

Both books gave me “a-ha” moments in which I had to set them down so the wonder could fill my brain as I thought, “I get it.” An epiphany of sorts.

These are the moments every reader longs for when they pick up a book. Because, no matter how entertained we are by a plot, how we enjoy the story, or love the characters, or are drawn into the setting, what we’re really looking for in a book is that one morsel of wisdom that makes us think, “A-ha!” That moment, suspended in time, in which something in our life connects us to something in the book, and we learn from what we’re reading. We understand. We empathize. We decide. And something inside us changes.

Every fictional story has some core base in reality. That’s the truth. Somewhere deep down, whether intentionally or not, every story has something to teach, something for the readers to learn. And as readers, isn’t that what we want out of a book?

Granted, this does not mean that we—the authors—should set out to write a book strictly with the idea of teaching a lesson. I’m sorry, but those books tend to come across as preachy.

Instead, I think it means that inside every story is a little core of a lesson, and—after the rough draft is written—it’s our job to find those little nuggets and polish them to a shine so that as our readers search for them, they’re able to find them and use them to light a path to the end of the book. And maybe, if we’re lucky, something in our words will light a path to something else in the life of a reader. An epiphany of sorts.

Our books will make readers think. Isn’t that the point?


ali said...

That's wonderful Nichole.

In Stephen King's book On Writing he talks about something similar. He said he writes a book. Just writes it, without much in the way of deep though. But then upon one re-read or the other, he might come across the ticklings of a theme. He suggests it might be a good idea to work in more connections for that theme in one of your revisions.

Not to beat a reader over the head with a lesson, like you said, but because some readers like that. I know I do. I love it when I set out for just a good read, and get so much more instead. It opens my mind in jazzy new ways that are thrilling.

Thanks for the reminder--I'm gonna do it!

Nichole Giles said...

Awesome, Ali. I had one such moment yesterday as I worked on a chapter of my WIP. One of those, "a-ha's" that made me think, hey, I know what this book is about. Finally. And the funny thing is I'm twenty-six chapters in.

Thanks for commenting.


Ronda Hinrichsen said...

Good post, Nichole. The ah-ha moment is my favorite part of reading and writing. Like you said, books/stories may be good on so many levels, but it's those that resonate with me that I must own. :)

Nichole Giles said...

You're right, Ronda. I didn't even think to mention that. Those books that leave such an impact are "must owns" for me as well.

Unfortunately--or fortunately, depending on how you look at it--my bookshelf is long past full. I think I'm going to need another one. =)