06 February 2013

#IWSG: Revelations Regarding Some Misconceptions About Good Stories

Last month I shared with you my writing resolutions for 2013. While I won't go into detailed updates on each point, I'm happy to share that I've been making progress in every major area. Particularly, you may notice a new tab I've created here called "Read More Classics 2013" which explains one of my projects for the year. It's linked to my Goodreads account so that my classic reads update here. I also have a list of classics to read which have been recommended to me. If you let me know your favorite classic, I'll put it on the list if I haven't read it yet.
Up In A Heaval could hide inside Anna Karenina
& nobody would notice!
Photo by Nicholas.

I managed to get through Anna Karenina, which was a beast -- a BEAST, I tell you! I read  it as an ebook, which is deceptive as to length, so Nicholas kindly took a comparison picture to demonstrate how "a regular book could be hiding inside of it and we would not even notice."

I was not kidding in my Goodreads review when I said I thought it was over at one point and then discovered I was only 40% of the way through the book. I'm still trying to figure out why I kept reading it. I finished it over a month ago and my mind still keeps wandering back to it. I wasn't reading it for a class or a book club or any other group. I had no obligation to continue reading the novel. I've put novels down before when I felt done with them, and it couldn't be a literary-snob-book-reader point of pride -- I walked away from Moby Dick half-read, for goodness' sake! Why didn't I walk away from Anna Karenina?

Because, okay, here's the thing about Anna: about 40% of the way through, everybody is mostly happy. All the characters you like the best are pretty much in fortune's favor, and you just know that if more than twice that amount is left, then terrible, horrible things are going to happen. If you're a writer, you're even more certain that something more horrible than the relatively-minor trials your favorites have thus far overcome is lurking off-stage ready to pile sorrow upon sorrow on their now-happy selves...because we who write know all-too-well the advice to writers to be cruel to one's characters, to make them walk through the flames -- because it is more interesting. Because a character's, well, character is revealed in the face of adversity, and it makes for compelling movement forward.

Since I read Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of The Wind, I've been pondering what it is about a book that could make me so engaged in it to continue to read the entire book, rooting for the main character in spite of finding him arrogant, depressing, and generally unlikable. Now I'm wondering what it is about a book like Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina that would keep me reading it in spite of knowing bad things were going to happen and that it wouldn't end happily.

I'm not sure why these ideas are revelations to me, but they are. The main character doesn't have to be likable and the book doesn't have to end happily for me to read (and enjoy) the story.

Now I'm wondering what other incorrect assumptions I have that I'm not currently aware of. Help me find out! Tell me in the comments what your favorite book is that you would consider to be a classic.

This post is in participation with hundreds of insecure writers who dedicate the first Wednesday of every month to post about insecurities: doubts and fears that we have or have conquered. Check out the Insecure Writer's Support Group for more information and a list of the other participating writers.