This is a guest post by Josie Beth.
What’s the most underrated yet most effective way to learn how to write?
Simple — watch storytelling in action. Through mere observation and a bit of thought, we can learn 100x better.
However, there’s more to it than just looking. You need to actively look to learn, otherwise you’ll just come up with a few unhelpful preferences.
Today, Madi Grace and I are going to show you how to most effectively analyze a book or movie to learn lessons for the writing craft. Be sure to check out her post here as well!
There are two ways I go about this. One is more casual, the second is all-out pens, paper, and notes.
I like watch how readers people react to writing. I find it’s extremely valuable to understand what makes readers feel what. So, for the more casual method, I act like a normal reader or viewer.
To do this, try not to focus on storytelling as you’re reading or watching a movie. Sit back and enjoy. Until you don’t.
Take note of what you like, and afterward, look into it. How was the plot twist foreshadowed so well? You felt submerged in the setting. Why?
On the other hand, when something pulls you out of the story, take note of why and what possibly happened that caused it. If the story was “meh”, come up with what could have made it awesome.
The second way is a methodical story analysis. I go in with specific intents from the start. This is the better choice when there’s a book in my genre or simply a well-done/highly reviewed story. What made it so awesome? Or, what made it flop?
Here’s where you start tracking story structure and character change. No matter what you’re looking to get out, having a good grasp on the story’s structure will give you a good idea of the timeline to reference if needed.
I’m begging to be pinned. Just hover over me if you so desire!
Focus in on certain aspects. The most valuable tool you can have at this point is to learn how to figure out why. You liked it, but why? This feels out of place, but why? The pacing was awesome, but why?
4 Tips To Take Away
- Notice your reading/viewing patterns
Do you read slower or faster when you’re enjoying a scene? Is there a specific trope you like that’s biasing you? Once you know how you watch storytelling, you’re better equipped to learn from it.
- Know what you want
When you go in intending to learn something, you will learn it. However, if you don’t know the specifics, you’re not going to get as much out of it because you can’t reverse engineer what you need to do to achieve your goal.
- Write down your thoughts
This will help you remember and force you to think deeper than you do mentally. Keep notes on everything you think beyond what first comes to mind.
- Be detailed and use examples
An important way to retain this information is to use examples. This character failed. Here’s what happened and where it went wrong, and here’s an idea of what could have made it better.
Go forth and learn, brave writer. Soak in as much knowledge as you can and experiment with the way you learn. Develop your own methods. I guarantee it’ll supercharge your writing growth better than reading random (and sometimes objectionable) writing advice.
What do you think? Do you like analyzing books and movies? Share your process! What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever learned a writing lesson from?