Storytelling Magic

In a recent interview in The New York Times Book Review, Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code and the new bestseller, Inferno, talked about the earliest experience he had as a reader that influenced him in a major way:

“We did not have a television while I was growing up, and so I read voraciously. My earliest memory of being utterly transfixed by a book was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Halfway through the book, I remember my mom telling me it was time for bed and not being able to sleep because I was so deeply concerned for the safety of the characters. The next day, when I finished the book, I remember crying with relief that everything had worked out. The emotion startled me — in particular the depth of connection I felt toward these imaginary characters. It was in that moment that I became aware of the magic of storytelling and the power of the printed word.”

I love this comment for what it reveals, not about Dan as a writer, but about him as a reader. As writers, I think all of us are inspired in some deeply fundamental way by stories that we read — or that were read to us — at some early moment in our lives. When I think back about the books that influenced me early on, there are several that come to mind. One is A Tale of Two Cities. Like Dan, I remember being moved to tears Dan by my feelings for one of the characters and marveling at how Charles Dickens had called up such feeling in me.

Sometimes I think that the feelings we experience for imaginary characters are purer and less encumbered than those we have for the real people in our lives. Because these created characters exist only in our imagination, we can connect with them emotionally in some very direct and primal way. What early reading experience really pulled your heartstrings? Thinking about why it had that power over you and how its influence was exercised can be very revealing and instructive. Write on!

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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3 Responses to Storytelling Magic

  1. calmgrove says:

    Strange you should ask what early reading experience pulled at your heartstrings. I’ve just reviewed The Water-Babies ( about a Victorian boy who becomes a water-baby. I read this as a youngster and was very moved by Kingsley’s description of how adults find the drowned body of the boy they have wrongly suspected of theft. I still found tears stinging my eyes when I re-read it a few days ago.

    • Hello,

      And thank you so much for sharing your story of a story that touched you deeply. You’ve inspired me to read Water Babies. I think when we are younger, books have an especially deep and lasting influence on us. That’s one reason I am so enjoying working on my novel, which is actually not a YA book, but written for readers 9-12. I just use the YA label to make things simple.

      Write on, Karin

      > Date: Sat, 27 Jul 2013 09:59:51 +0000 > To: >

      • calmgrove says:

        Yes, ‘YA’ is such a broad brush, isn’t it, while ‘pre-teens’ sounds somehow a little negative, not quite good enough for YA.

        A plague on categories! I tend not to use pre-teen or YA as a label; I think that if a book is worth reading, whatever its target audience, it needs to be judged on its merits as a piece of writing. Though of course tags are useful when it comes to directing browser to your blog or whatever, an age-related tag seems to suggest that as an adult I shouldn’t be reading Mary Norton, Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman or J K Rowling. And nor should any other self-respecting adult!

        I regret to observe that too many North American online ‘hobby’ reviewers seem fixated on age-related criteria and grading for suitability of subject matter, as though pre-teen or YA reading matter is a means to an end rather than a pleasurable end in itself. It’s rarely clear what the end they have in mind is… Dan Brown perhaps? Maybe it’s just a cultural thing. Sorry to rant on.

        Anyway, how to label or tag The Water-Babies? It veers from pre-teen language to complex grown-up arguments and all stations in between. That’s why I suspect it confuses many modern readers.

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