I recently finished reading this book called The Things We Do For Love, by Kristin Hannah.
It was pretty much as cheesy a book as the title suggests, but it was also one of those books that make you think. Not only that, it makes you feel. It’s one of those stories with those characters that just stick with you. I finished reading the book a couple of weeks ago, and still the characters and the words they said live in my head. I’m not going to say the book was great, because it wasn’t. The story wasn’t all that believable, and it wasn’t written in a beautiful way or even in a really good way. It was an average book. But, I think a book that stays with you three weeks after you’ve closed the cover has done its job.
I won’t go into detail on what the story was about. It focuses on a woman and a teenage girl who are both having a rough time about life. They come across each others paths in an unlikely way and as it turns out they are each exactly what the other needed most.
Like I said, not a fascinating story. The story itself was entertaining enough, good for a long car ride home from Albuquerque. But what drew me in, and has kept me in for these past couple of weeks, was the characters. They were so wonderfully composed.
Angie, the main woman in the story, is such a likable character. Even though in the beginning this character is kind of self-involved, and she can only see that one thing that she wants more than life, you’re rooting for her. She is kind and smart and beautiful, and down to earth in a way that doesn’t seem possible in real life. During the first chapter you find out that she has recently lost her father and her newborn daughter, and since divorced her husband. By the second chapter you can feel her pain. You want her to win; you want her to get what she wants and to live happily ever after.
It’s because of this character, this make-believe woman who is still occupying my thoughts, that I think so highly of this book.
Let me explain.
I’ve always been kind of a snob when it comes to books. I read for the stories, to a certain extent, but mostly I read for things that make up the stories: the words and how they are written. I love words. I love that they can be so beautiful if you know just how to string them together. I love how they can tell you a story so vividly that you can see it play out before you. I love that a simple word can mean so much in the right context. I love that they can make you feel something so much more than almost anything else there is. I love what you can do with them and what they can do for you. Simply put, I love words.
That being said, maybe you can understand what I mean when I say I’m a bit of a book snob. I read literature. I read for all of the things I mentioned above and am adamantly against anything that I consider less. I read books that I respect by authors that I admire. The books I tend to chose reflect the kind of writing I hope to produce. So I think that my being a book snob is kind of warranted; I’m only trying to become a better writer myself. But still, I’ll continue to explain.
I refused to read the Twilight books from the beginning because they read like a third grader wrote them. I won’t pick up a piece of chick lit or any sort of crime or law novel. And I wouldn’t touch a Stephen King novel with a ten foot pole.
It’s okay if you’re judging me. I’ll be honest, I judge people who read these kinds of books and think they’re great. I’ve openly admitted it: I’m a book snob. I have a problem.
But a funny thing happened about a year ago. I read Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, and I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I actually kind of enjoyed it. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it was horribly written and don’t respect Meyer’s work in any way; however, the story was pretty entertaining. I could take it or leave it, but overall I’m glad I decided to read the books.
Since then, I’ve decided to get off my high horse and work on my snobbishness. I’m starting to realize that maybe it doesn’t matter if books aren’t beautifully written. I made a pact with myself to just read books that sound good to me, even if they don’t measure up to my standards. And a lot of these books that I’ve read in the last year have surprised me by being really enjoyable and often very good books.
The Hannah book that I mentioned before is one that I never would have read in the past. Just by looking at it I would have passed it off as a dumb book. But here’s the thing: even though this book was pretty much everything I thought it would be, it was also a lot of things I never would have expected. I wouldn’t have expected to fall in love with the characters or to be thinking about it weeks after I finished it. And after reading it, and many other books like it, I’ve realized something: this is exactly the kind of book that I want to write.
While I hope to have the whole package, both a good story that is beautifully written and one that makes people think and feel, essentially it all comes down to the last thing. As long as you that one quality, the ability to make someone feel something, your words have done their job.
I don’t want to write books like Twilight, because let’s be honest: no one has ever felt anything after finishing the saga, except maybe those boy-crazy preteens who want nothing more than for Edward Cullen to turn them into vampires.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to have an impact. Writing is the way that I know how to do this, and moreover, it’s the way that I want to do it.
The book that I mentioned before may have been all of those negative things that I said about it, but it had an impact on me. And I think that’s all that really matters. At the end of the day, if what I write means something to someone, then I think I’ll be happy.