In EDEN, Rachel has a habit of doing literary calisthenics every summer morning. Her book of choice is Moby Dick by Herman Melville. She’s memorized passages and her paperback is so tattered the pages are on the verge of becoming unglued from their spine. In EDEN, bookshelves are stuffed with favorite novels and lots of books are read, from Sarah’s favorite E.B. White to Thomas’s favorite Tom Clancy.
Summer is traditionally a time for reading. We can thank the habits instilled in us by school systems that handed out reading lists every June with the expectation that those books held the key to success for the coming year and the understanding that, come September, there might be a test….
Reading in bed in the morning has got to be one of life’s greatest indulgences, a luxury I admit to lavishing upon myself every once in a while, especially in the summer. However, I don’t reach for Melville. I have a stack of new titles at my bedside. But there are a couple of books that are perpetually there, because this is when I’m deep into revisions. One of those books on craft is STORY by Robert McKee. Its subtitle is “Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting”, but don’t let that fool you. STORY is not for screenwriters alone, but for storytellers of all genres.
STORY is written so clearly and breaks down the tenets of any successful narrative. It serves as a reference book, yet includes many wonderful examples and anecdotes. It is great the first time then serves as an important refresher.
For a writer, reading as much as possible is an important part of the work. So in addition to books on craft, I have re-read several classics during past summers including East of Eden, The Catcher in the Rye, Lolita, and Jane Eyre. I’m not sure what classic is in store for me this summer. It’s usually a spontaneous decision! If you have any suggestions, please pass them along.