Why try to read beyond the surface of a text ?


In a post from the blog Live to write, Deborah Lee Luskin  mentions parle du Jonathan Doer’s last book : All the light we cannot see. She highlights the beauty of the writing and the maestria with which the author intertwines 4 subplots. She ends her article with the certainty that she will read the book again in order to understand how Doerr achieved his masterpiece.

This reminded me of a theme I wanted to write about for a long time without knowing where to start, i.e. read a book like a writer and try to see beyond the surface of the written words.

This kind of reading is difficult because it requires to subtract us from the magic of the story to take a look backstage.

However, this has taught me a lot of things among which :

  • show, don’t tell
  • point of view
  • active description versus shopping list.

Here are a few leads I follow :

  • study texts I love, that inspire me and make me feel like I’d love to write something as good
  • look how the events are presented in the text in regards of the center theme
  • grammar study, how the author builds his sentences, his dialogs.
  • read creative writing books. They offer precious leads.

1 example


I read Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 with theses observation goals in mind.

The first 10 pages are a brilliant combination of many elements that sustain Adamame’s (female main character) entry in a parallel dimension.

Murakami uses every detail to foreshadow her shift of dimension :

  • Adamame just got out of the plane (change of context)
  • She’s at the airport, in a noisy and swarming environment (senses overload)
  • She boards on a limo with tinted windows (ear and sight are abolished)
  • Le limo starts (beginning of transition)
  • then gets stuck on a highway interchange (at the crossroads)
  • The driver suggest Adamame to walk for the remaining of her traject  (invitation to adventure, inciting incident).

The entire text serves the shift between two realities and when it happens, it feels natural.

What now ?

I took time away from my analysis, slept (a lot) and wrote, wrote, wrote and wrote some more.

A month into my daily summer writing challenge, I start to see some results : descriptions don’t frighten me anymore.

This article has been beta read by the fabulous Mlle Louise. Don’t hesitate to drop an eyes on her blog, she’s also writes in english.

8 réflexions sur « Why try to read beyond the surface of a text ? »

  1. This made me think of what I read (and write) completely differently! What a great concept. Your example really made it clear, as I would not have picked up on some of those sublties had you not mentioned it. Especially the one where she couldn’t see or hear within the limo.

    1. I was in awe when I read it for the first time, wondering « wait, was did just happen ? » So I went back and started reading « like a writer » and got awestruck again by how good the writing was. Another great author to analyze is Cormac McCarthy.

  2. Your post just brought to mind a great, great book « Let The Great World Spin » by Colum McCann. His writing really made me pause and think. It was a book that certainly was not a quick read. It was, however, a wonderful story!

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