Girl on Fire: How books, music inspire my writing

Wicked[As seen in Creston News Advertiser October 17, 2013]

One thing I love talking about, which could be one reason why I have a degree in English and creative writing, is books. I’m an avid reader, and occasionally I can devour a book in a day or two.

Currently, I’m reading several series, two of which are Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy and Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Years series.

Usually, I don’t like reading multiple books simultaneously because content can get confusing, or I realize I like one book better than the other. But, having four books of such wide variety really isn’t bad.

I like the Divergent trilogy because it’s the easiest of the four. Roth wrote the young adult novels in fast-paced, simple prose. It tends to take thinking out of the equation and seems to be more of an entertaining read. The main character lives in a futuristic, faux-utopian Chicago, and themes of community, identity, and individuality are woven into the story in relateable ways.

I also decided to read the series because the third installment will be released Tuesday.

Maguire’s first novel of the Wicked Years series is called “Wicked.” For those who have never heard of it, it was based on the Wicked Witch of the West from L. Frank Baum’s “Wizard of Oz.” The novel was also made into a Broadway musical.

Maguire is brilliant, using little details in ways to bring the classic into his dark twist on the tale. He doesn’t change what happens with Dorothy and her troupe, or the Witch’s end, but he does create a life for Elphaba, the Witch’s name, and that’s what I love about the whole series: it continues with those close to the witch, or with a strong connection to her, long after her death.

I’ve found reading so much actually helps my writing skills. I see what published authors do that works for them, and what doesn’t, and experiment. Sometimes, it can be difficult when we, as newswriters, are unbiased in our newswriting. And, if that’s the case, I experiment with styles, transitions or formats in my personal writing.

Another place I find inspiration for writing is in music. Recently, with credit to a friend from England, I discovered the band Bastille, also from England. The group has one album for sale, and each song is different. The most popular song, according to iTunes, is called “Pompeii,” a song with chants that focuses on the Italian city destroyed by Mount Vesuvius, as well as entwining feelings of love in with the lyrics.

Unique songs like “Pompeii,” with original lyrics, and a plethora of books from different genres make me think more about what I write and why, which in turn makes my writing less drawn out and watered down with unnecessary descriptive words, and more action-packed and interesting. At least, I hope so!

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