Strike a Chord   5 comments

What does it take to impress you when you are reading someone else’s book?

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What Impresses Me?

Image result for image of a hammer dulcimer
Hammer Dulcimer

I’m not a musician, but I’m fascinated by musicians who can strike a pure clear chord and not feel the need to rush onto the rest of the song. Such resonate tone enthralls me and I can remember specific concerts where the musicians did that far better than any other concert I’ve heard.

I read a lot and when I read the prompt I knew it was a big question. I searched back in my memory for examples of being impressed by another writer.

I read my first novel when I was 8 and I’ve done a lot of reading since. That’s a lot of chances to be impressed.

Stark Photorealism

Some writers excel at descriptions. There’s a scene in Treasure Island that describes young Jim’s first view of the island. Written so realistically, the image etched itself into my 11-year-old brain so that when I first saw a photo of a Caribbean island a few years later, I knew immediately it was a Caribbean island. It was exactly what I envisioned Jim’s island looked like. Madelaine L’Engle excelled at it as well. When you read her The Young Unicorns, you feel like you’ve been into a subway tunnel in New York City. Susan Collins did something similar in The Hunger Games. It’s a writing technique that paints a realistic “photo” with words. That impresses me. I’ve tried it myself. It’s not easy to do, but the reader feels pulled into the story’s setting and it stays with them after they close the book.

Emotional Connection

The first novel I ever read was My Friend Flicka. I was 8 and going through a horse-loving phase. I’d never seen any of the 1950’s movies. The retrospectives on those came out in the 1980s when I was in college. The book pulls you slowly into emotional life of Ken and the McLaughlin family. Near the end of the novel, Ken has been ill and he believes his beloved colt has been euthanized. His father drives him out the ranch road and Ken sees Flicka is still alive. I didn’t cry when Ken thought Flicka died and I don’t cry generally when I’m happy, but as I read the scene I started to cry. The emotional connection gutted me. Over the years, very occasionally, I would read another passage in another book that would play on my emotions. Most-recently, I re-read 1984 and when Winston finally gives in to agree that there are three lights even though he only sees two, I could identify with his powerlessness, the acceptance of a lie to change the reality you know will be worse if you don’t. There’s a passage in All’s Quiet on the Western Front where the diarist describes a night on patrol — the eerie quiet across No-Man’s Land, knowing the silence is an illusion and that any moment death could spring upon him. In Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, the author describes Kaladin’s depression without once using any words that mean depression. I read The Way of Kings when I still worked for community behavioral health, which might explain why it resonated so strongly with me. Although I’ve had reason to be depressed in my life, I don’t stay there so I’d never understood the concept of clinical depression — where you just can’t do anything against it. For the period of time that it took to read the scene, I understood depression that is a black cloud that will always win.

What Impresses Me

When a writer pours something deep and real onto the page, I’m impressed. When it touches me deeply at a soul level, I’m impressed. I want to do that to my readers. I want to strike a chord that resonates so deeply into their souls that they can’t forget it. The knack for that impresses me.

Posted February 22, 2021 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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5 responses to “Strike a Chord

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  1. Really cool, how well written word pictures can convey an image so realistic, it is life like. Such as your Treasure Island illustration, that when you did see a Caribbean Island photo, you just knew! 😀🌴

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  2. There are things in novels that will leave life longs impressions on me too. that connection to the character really counts. i just hope that i can do that with my characters in my novels.

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  3. I know that I have been impressed when I finish, close the book and just think…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have been accused of reading “too fast” so I sometimes skim past descriptions. It’s got to be well-done to get me to slow down.

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  5. I tend to skip through a lot of descriptions. Perhaps I’d better not, lol.

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