TCWT Blog Chain: Books that Taught Me by Example

That’s right, it’s time for this month’s TCWT blog chain! The prompt is:

What works of fiction have taught you by example, and what did they teach you?

This is totes a tough question, but I will go ahead and answer it anyway.

(I apologize for using the word ‘totes.’ I also apologize for publishing this late, though in my defense, my leg was bitten off by a crocodile and it took me exactly three days to get over it.)

First off: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. (Along with all her other books that I know of.)

Say what you want about the Hunger Games trilogy, but you can’t say they’re not well-structured. Well, you can, I guess, but I’d have to disagree with you. Well, I wouldn’t completely disagree with you on Mockingjay and Catching Fire, because they were a bit messy, but the first book was mahvelous*, and that statement is not up for debate.

The books are divided into three parts. Part one: the introduction, full of world-building and set-up and all that jazz. Part two: the rising action, where some stuff happens, and there’s usually a twist at the end. And then Part three, where all hell breaks loose. Most books and stories and TV sitcoms (especially TV sitcoms) use this structure, but it never really became apparent to me until I read these books.

Now whenever I write a story, I write it with the three part structure in mind. And it’s worked out perfectly for me so far, with my books becoming New York Times’ bestsellers.

(Forgot to mention: I go by the pseudonym Stephen King.)

Second off is a series that I seemingly mention in every other post of mine: A Song of Ice and Fire.

This is the series that made me a fan of stories with multiple point of view characters and different storylines that are all interconnected, which is the type of story I try to write all the time now, despite the fact that it is very, very hard to do. (I have the upmost respect for epic fantasy writers now, by the way.)

And one of the advantages of having multiple POV characters is that it allows you to be more flexible killing them off. For instance, in my most recent WIP I am honestly considering killing my “main character” a third of the way through the book, because I have three other characters who are a lot more interesting and, with a little tweaking of the plot, can probably easily take charge of the story. I’d never even be considering this option if it weren’t for ASoIaF.

(You could argue that if I could just spontaneously kill off my main character, then he wasn’t very well-written or important to begin with. But. . . shuddup.)

Oh, and here’s a fun fact: George R. R. Martin has inspired me to write a scene in which multiple key characters are killed off with a large portion of the story still to go. You know, just to make those readers suffer.

John Green’s Looking for Alaska taught me that it’s allowed to include swearing in a young adult novel. Don’t get me wrong; I had read books with profanity before, but those were adult books, most of them by Stephen King. Looking for Alaska was in the YA category, and up until that point I didn’t even realize that swearing was allowed at all in books aimed towards teens, and especially not to the extent that it was. (This is probably because most of young adult books I’ve read was stuff like Percy Jackson and the Olympians, a series set in a world where “pinehead” and “seaweed brain” are actually offensive to a sixteen year old.”)

Thirteen year old me’s reaction to this was something along the lines of, “Cool. Whatever.” (I was in my angsty rebellious phase at the time.) And then I went ahead and did the same thing in my story, except I went a bit overboard, to the point where there’d be dialogue like this:

“Hey, pass me the *#&$ing bread, you *@$!ing ^&*@.”

“Okay $%&#, just $^^%$#& let me &#*@* and &#^$@, #&$#*@^$^&)(&%# !@!@#$%.”

That’s right: my characters just randomly shouted out symbols. Sometimes they’d even swear.

Anywho, the main reason this post took so long for me to write (you know, beside me losing my leg in a freak crocodile accident) is because I don’t finish most books with a specific lesson learned that I will apply to my own writing. I usually just learn a lot of minor things that is tough to describe, and anyway aren’t important enough to warrant an entire post. To be honest I’ve learned something from every book I’ve read, even the terrible ones. Especially the terrible ones, actually.

So it looks like the moral of this post is: read bad books.

(EDIT: I realize now that I could have easily written a post about books that were so bad, they taught me a valuable lesson in what not to do when writing a novel, and the post probably would’ve been awesome. Well, it’s too late now. But I guess you can expect a post like this in the future. *fingers crossed.*)

And now for the other participants of the blog chain:





















25th – [off-day]





30th and

31st – (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

*I spelled it this way on purpose, by the way.


5 thoughts on “TCWT Blog Chain: Books that Taught Me by Example

  1. I do so love George R.R. Martin’s words, although I haven’t actually finished one of his books yet. (I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I swear.) But these are all great points, and I did like what you said about cursing. When I first read curse words in books I was a little sickened, and it’s not that it was prolific or anything but I was just a little surprised, and it took a while for me to become comfortable understanding that the curse words weren’t really directed at me, they were just a dialogue device. Great thoughts all the way through, though! 🙂

  2. Great post! I haven’t actually read any of these books *hides behind a barricade expecting a wave to tomatoes to be thrown* but I’ve heard good things about all of them.

    Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle books are the ones that taught me about swearing in YA, and how it can be used to characterize a character.

    1. *throws tomatoes* All of them are great. Well, most of them are great, anyway.

      Anyhoo, that’s a good point about the Raven Cycle. It also taught me the value of taking the time to focus on the character’s home-lives and other problems not directly related to the plot. It made me care about all the Raven boys so much more.

  3. Awesome post! ASoIaF has really inspired as well, because it’s opened up this whole realm of flawed-yet-hard-to-hate characters who die a lot that I didn’t realize I’d wanted so badly until I’d heard about it. Books that push the boundaries just generally teach me as a writer, because they bring with them a lot of possibility to write bigger and better things that I didn’t even realize were possible beforehand.

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