Are You An Interactive Reader?

Books are amazing! They are full of windows into other worlds and into other people’s souls. Children learn so much about society and grammar, as well as how to write creatively themselves, by reading a good variety of books.

At school, teachers generally find interactive ways to connect with stories and for children to gain a better understanding of the materials they are reading through drama, art and music. As adults we tend to do this much less but I think that finding ways to interact with the books that you read can make the activity of reading even more enjoyable as well as engaging our brains, keeping those synapses active.

Here are a few questions to consider. As usual, I have noted my own responses underneath each one. I look forward to reading your thoughts on these.

1) Do you ever look into the subjects or locations covered within your reading books?

For me, if I come across a new subject or something that I have less awareness of, I quickly open up Google and have a look for more information about that particular topic. This can stem from a tricky word which has intrigued me or even an exotic place that I’ve never heard of. If a book is set on a Greek island, I want to visualise it by opening a map of that location, for example. I want to know the terrain and check out a few pictures taken on that island too.

2) Have you ever unpicked a story with friends?

Many people join book clubs for this very reason. Discussing a book as you travel through its pages can be fun and fascinating. Taking in the opinions of others and engaging in a good debate about the gritty issues uncovered can be satisfying.

Although I never found a book club to join locally, I often read a book at the same time as a friend. We can then have a good natter about the last chapter we read and have a laugh predicting what might happen next. If a story is particularly harrowing we can contemplate how we would deal with that issue or make a decision, give the facts we are presented with.

3) Would you make something artistic based on a book?

After I have read a book which is very visual, riddled with detailed description, I’ve often found myself doodling. I like to sketch cartoon-style and in the past have done this related to book images. Obviously we all see book settings differently and so creating something based on a book is really interesting. You could make a clay model, do a colouring or maybe even draw your own map of a mythical world.

4) Have you ever written fan fiction?

People play around with popular narratives and put their favourite story characters into completely random situations.

Not yet. You hear about this all of the time at the moment. Harry Potter has had so many fan fiction stories written, using its characters. This is where fans take the story characters and write their own version of events or continue a well known narrative in a way that they would like to see it play out.

Commonly, fans change love interests, alter storylines and mix up relationships, making friends from enemies. A good example is where Harry Potter is rather good ‘friends’ with his nemesis, Draco Malfoy.

I wrote this post because I think that interacting with books can help you to get out of a reading slump. It is also meant to be a bit of fun. I’d love to see your responses to the above questions in the comments. How interactive with your reading are you?

I recently wrote a post about how lazy a reader you might be which is here. If you enjoyed my article perhaps consider following my newish blog, where I write about books, mental health and the environment.

The Fathers, the Sons and the Anxious Ghost

I wrote this poem to celebrate my first book. It remained in my draft folder, until now.

Three men have families full of much joy,

They watch a school play, which they do not enjoy,

Their wives are quite different, and one is upset,

Their children are sometimes half full of regret.

The sons tell a part of the story indeed,

They all find a course in which they hope to succeed,

One daughter is affected by events in the past,

And the family bonds, well they don’t always last.

Emotions are rife in this dramatic tale,

Of friendship, romance, loss and apparently betrayal,

The characters laugh and cry and dwell,

Their consciences often narrating the story they tell.

Here is a recent post I write about the process of conceiving this story:

How to Write a Short Story.

writer working on typewriter in office

Have you ever wanted to write a short story? Maybe you plan to release a collection of short stories on Kindle? Or do you simple enjoy writing short fiction for pleasure? Here is my ‘How To’ that will give you some simple tips to help you along the way.

In my experience, writing short stories can be a very satisfying way of exploring the writing process. Not only is it fun, but it trains your mind to think more carefully about structuring fiction and starts you thinking about the stories that you read more analytically. Take a look at my steps to success and let me know what you think.

  1. Set a seed

    Every story starts with a little nugget of information; an idea. For the purposes of this article, let’s refer to it as a seed. Unlike with a novel, you only really need one fully formed seed to develop a brilliant short story. This can be an event, such as an accident on the way to work, a chance encounter between two potential lovers or a family day out to the zoo.

  2. Add a little compost

    A short story can require some planning, although that’s not always the case. It can still be organic as long as you have certain things in mind. Without all of the extra padding of a larger novel, you are not quite so restricted in fitting into a complex web of plot, setting and character development. You do need some compost though to root that original idea firmly into the ground and enable it to grow.

    A short story still needs one or more of the following:
    * A purpose (to simply make the reader smile or to point to a moral)
    * To have a strong voice (whether written in the first or third person) which is consistent and relatable.
    * An emotional tug (something to involve the reader and draw upon their empathy, thus sustaining their interest).

  3. Watch it grow

    ‘A watched kettle never boils’ they say, but a neglected story never finds an audience either. You need to review your writing regularly and be open to making changes as you go along. Reading it aloud can help you to uncover any parts that might sound too clunky. After all, if it doesn’t read well out loud, it probably won’t hold your audience’s attention for very long.

    Having said that, taking some time away from your writing to do other things can enable you to examine it with fresh eyes and pick out bits that you want to develop or need cutting completely. Editing is a harsh business but you just have to be confident in your own abilities and snip off some of those dead leaves.

  4. Keep it out in the open

    Sometimes you may be tempted to shelve a project quite early on. You may have that initial inspiration for a story and then life takes over and you file it away in a folder on your computer and before long, it’s just a distant memory.

    My advice would be don’t shy away from it. Keep coming back to it, even if only to add a sentence or two. Think about what you like about it so far and what else it really needs to tie up loose ends and bring it to a suitable ending.

  5. Water it

    The most important aspect of writing is editing, especially when you have a first draft. Sometimes the best way to begin with this is to share it with a trusted friend. Pick someone who will take it seriously and give it due consideration. Ask them to discuss it with you or even persuade them to listen to you reading it aloud. Once you have got a feeling for their reaction to it, hopefully they will be able to talk about what they enjoyed the most. Sometimes, without the need for negativity, just being aware of the most appealing sections can help you a great deal with a final edit.

    When somebody else shares the highlights with you, it can be easy to focus on those and make sure they are drawn attention to, sometimes by contracting other content or sidelining it altogether. It makes sense to embellish the good stuff but also make sure the overall story stays true to the message that you want to give. It is your story and you should feel comfortable with the direction it moves in. If you feel concerned that other people are changing that initial seed then hold your horses and stick to your guns.

  6. Put it in the window box for all to see

    The last stage of writing a captivating short story is letting it go. By this, I’m not referring to Frozen, but I’m saying simply put it out there in the big wide world. Short stories may be written for you alone and that’s fine. But if you do want to share your work then go for it. Pop it on your blog or include it in a website that allows you to publish your own work for free, such as Wattpad. Shout about it on social media, perhaps utilising one of the #writerslift opportunities on Twitter or shameless self promo threads.

    Be proud of what you’ve achieved and celebrate your accomplishment (perhaps even open a bottle of bubbly).

    All writing is challenging and takes a lot of effort to complete. So if you have spent time putting together a short work of fiction and have made sure to follow the above steps, you will definitely deserve to celebrate your achievement. I hope that you will begin to love the writing process as much as a I have. You can see some of my favourite short books here:

    If you found this helpful, please drop a comment below and perhaps consider following my blog for similar content.

writer working on typewriter in office
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