Didn’t you just dread writing book reports as a school kid? I did, at least. Though I loved reading from an early age, I had no idea how to identify the important elements that make up an appealing story.
But I knew what I liked and what I didn’t. Because a book that touches your heart must add up to more than the summary of its plot. It needs themes that resonate. Characters with soul who learn, grow, and change. And something that catches us by surprise with emotion.
“I’m a shepherd of stories.” –Janyre Tromp
Rather than continue my Return to Chiloé trip this week, I thought I’d ask you to participate in the first part of a “book report” questionnaire today. People—myself included—seem to love doing quizzes and answering questions. Sometimes it’s pretty funny what we find entertaining to respond to on Facebook. For example: What’s this (random antique item)? Do you wear a mask? What condiment do you put on French fries?
Lately I’ve wondered which of my book ideas to prioritize next. Maybe you can help me decide by sharing your thoughts on Twenty Questions. I’m not techy enough to create an elaborate survey form, but here are a few questions this writer’s pondering.
Feel free to answer as many or as few as you wish (by #number in the comment box below or, if you prefer, via email on the Contact Me form). Some questions are pure opinion. Others might help me understand my reader demographic better or learn what interests you most. It intrigues me to discover what we might have in common.
- 1. What’s your favorite book (or two) of all time? I couldn’t resist starting the quiz rolling here. Ooooh, that’s a hard one. But what comes to my mind without overthinking are: Rilla of Ingleside (#8 in the Anne of Green Gables series), Prince Rilian (#4 in The Chronicles of Narnia), and The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
If you ask me next month, I might mention something entirely different. But does it strike you as a coincidence that all of these books were originally targeted for young people?! My one criterion is that they must be as wonderful when I return to them as an adult as when I first enjoyed them as a child or teen.
“There is no greater power on this earth than story.” –Libba Bray
And I was intrigued to learn that most Young Adult literature is read by 25-to-55-year-olds. Something about it hits our hearts.
- 2a. Do you read more fiction or nonfiction?
- 2b. If you prefer more nonfiction, what topics interest you in general?
- 2c. If nonfiction is your preference, why don’t you read more fiction?
- 3. Memoir has become a trendy nonfiction genre lately. If you read memoirs, what types do you like? I loved At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider (travel) and The Art of French Eating by Ann Mah (food).
- 4a. Which fiction genres do you tend to gravitate toward: romance, western, mystery, suspense, historical? Or fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal?
- 4b. Naming every possible genre or subgenre would occupy a lot of space. Perhaps we’ll generalize and put it: Are you more a fan of novels about the “real world” or novels set in “supernatural” universes?
- 5a. Why do you think people don’t read as much as they used to? The general public in Chile, where my husband and I live at present, isn’t remotely a reading population.
- 5b. Any ideas to help me change that situation?
- 5c. How do you make readers of your children?
“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” –Joseph Brodsky
- 6a. Men used to read more than women. Do you agree that now it’s probably the opposite?
- 6b. Why do you think that is, considering there are still plenty of men writers?
- 7. Do you read what you would term lighter or more serious books?
- 8. Why do you read: to relax, learn, be entertained or informed, etc.?
- 9. How do you decide what to read next? Personal interest, recommendations and reviews, New York Times bestseller status, back cover copy or product blurb on Amazon? Whatever a friend lends you or reports as interesting?
- 10a. Do you like most of the books you read? Why or why not?
- 10b. What is your biggest beef about the books you read?
- 10c. What do you enjoy/appreciate most?
- 11. How often do you dump a book DNF (“did not finish”)? And why?
- 12a. If you are a Christian… do you read devotionals?
- 12b. Do you enjoy finding spiritual themes woven into fiction?
- 12c. Would you rather see them hidden/camouflaged, allegorical…or more overt?
- 13. If you’re ever (or often) depressed… do you think Christian books can and do provide help with spiritual and emotional problems?
“The world doesn’t need another book, but it does need a book with an eternal spark from people who are around the presence of God.” –Allen Arnold
- 14a. What themes do you or would you like to see written about?
- 14b. What message would you personally like to share with the world?
- 15. What issues make you angry that you wish writers would touch on more frequently?
- 16. What can’t you read about? Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project) can’t do injustice. I can’t face torture and violent confrontations. Some war books are out for me.
- 17a. Do you ever read to escape?
- 17b. Do you think fiction is “wish fulfillment”?
I’m saving my questions on other aspects of storytelling for “book reports” on another day. But now, just for fun… Have you ever played the game Would You Rather?
18. Would you rather read about…
…how Angélica De la Cruz runs away from Chiloé and meets the peerless David Serrano? (Joy Ride) …Or…
…how the Chilean legend, The Kennedy Avenue Blonde, becomes Cole and Linda’s adopted daughter?
19. Would you rather read about…
…how Marcos and Coni honeymoon in Italy and trace her family history to the pre-Reformation faithful of the Alpine valleys? (possible split timeline, working title Alpine Aurora) …Or…
…how Rachelle Peterson drags her great-aunt on a memoir research trip to French Canada? (working title, The Legend of Point Michaud)
20. Would you rather read about…
…how Nicolás and Melissa track the wanderings of her Huguenot pilgrim ancestor, Pierre, while planning a world mission trip (working title The Hatmaker’s Apprentice, another split timeline?) …Or…
…how the next generation of the Serrano clan gather “back in Chiloé” to solve a chilling decades-old mystery? (As the River Roars)
I honestly can’t decide what I’d rather write next. Do you have a vote?
“You have to believe in the story to make it a good one.” –Nicola Upson, Angel with Two Faces
While I’m meditating on upcoming projects, please pray for me as I make the final changes, consider the final edits, and put the final touches on Pursuit of the Pudú Deer. May God grant me faith to believe in each story He’s given me and wisdom to take the next right step.