As stated many times on this blog, good writers must in turn be good readers. I don’t mean you can read lots of words or big words (sorry Trump) but I simply mean that good writers seek out good writing to emulate when working toward that new idea for a fiction piece.
Lately I’ve read some really good books, all of them read during the difficult task of finishing the last book in my space-opera trilogy. These books inspired me to new ideas for other projects which in turn caused me to work harder to finish the WIP. I really needed some motivation as I had to go back and find the spark that ignited the flame I had for the series in the first place.
There were several books that gave me hope during my ordeal, and these are some of the best:
Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines
The plot: So you like the Avengers? The X-Men? Great! Now throw these heroes into a world where a zombie plague has run its course and the few remaining humans are cowering behind the protective arms of a host of earth’s mightiest superheroes.
Why it inspires: The premise is crazy, but what it teaches me is that even a crazy premise can make for fun and interesting reading. Clines is one of my favorite current authors and he doesn’t disappoint as far as storytelling and description. His characters are lively and interesting and the premise creates a situation that is fun to discover as the onion layers of the apocalypse are pulled back one by one. It challenges me to think outside the box for plot ideas and is a darn fine read.
Way Station by Clifford Stimak
The plot: A Civil War veteran is somehow living in a shack in the Appalachian mountains. He’s still physically in his thirties, and the shack keeps him young as long as he stays in it. He has been selected to be a way station keeper for an intergalactic transport service.
Why it inspires: Stimak is one of my favorite science fiction writers, but that aside this is an exploration of how far one can take a science fiction story until the science begins to blend into fantasy. Arthur C. Clarke said that alien tech would be so far above us that it would look like magic. It teaches me to not worry so much about the science of how something is happening but to tell a good story. The story is so compelling in this novel that it stands as one of the great sci-fi reads of all time by most readers.
The Wasteland Saga by Nick Cole
The plot: This saga is made up of three intersecting novels: “The Old Man and the Wasteland”, “The Savage Boy” and “The Road is a River”. It follows two main characters as they traverse a Mad Max/Book of Eli style wasteland after a horrific nuclear event.
Why it inspires: This series is so amazing that I just don’t have words for it. Just read it. What it teaches me is that even though a writer could spend a lot of time on the world his/her characters inhabit, the most important thing is story and character interaction. This series has that in spades. It could have been a story set in a modern world or in the old west. The characters would be the same. It is ultimately a great story.
Sleeping Giants by Silvain Neuvel
The plot: a scientist, as a child, fell through a hole in the ground and found a giant mechanical hand which then sparks a life-long hunt for the parts of a giant robot hidden throughout the earth. These parts were scattered here aeons ago by an alien race and we have just now become technologically advanced enough to find them.
Why it inspires: The format of this novel is very cool. Mostly it consists of de-classified interviews, status reports and other documents that don’t read like fiction. In doing so, it creates a sense of mystery and reality that is immersive and interesting. It teaches me to think outside the box with formatting my next novel. I might be incorporating some interviews and other non-traditional storytelling techniques in my next book.
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
The plot: a Christian pastor leaves his wife on earth to go to another planet to become the pastor of an indigenous race on the first planet humans have attempted to colonize.
Why it inspires: As a Christian who tries to live his life for Christ, this novel is amazing. The author does not profess to be Christian, yet he has managed to capture the truth of what it is to have faith in Christ and to try to spread the Gospel to others. I am taught that if this non-Christian can write in this vein, telling a compelling science fiction story with a heart of faith at the core, I can do the same. I’m so glad to see another author doing this and being successful. It gives me hope to reach a wider audience.
What books inspire you as a writer? Do you read the classics at all? What modern texts are your go-to novels? Post in the comments below.