I like to wear my writer hat while reading, because it lets me appreciate the story on a different level. When I really like a book, I look at what the author did to bring the story to life and keep me invested. I think you can learn something about writing from every book, but I want to highlight a few books/series I’ve read recently that gave me great craft lessons as well as great stories.
The Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab (first book is A Darker Shade of Magic)
I love so much about this series (and Schwab’s other books) that I can’t choose just one element of craft to talk about with these books. Schwab is a master world builder, and clearly knows the rich history of all four of the magical worlds she’s created. But what makes the world building so good is that we only learn what we need to know as we need to know it. The setting is expanded in the second book, A Gathering of Shadows, as the politics of Red London become more prominent. The setting is integral to the plot, and the characters. And the characters themselves are all fully-fleshed, with goals and agendas of their own. Their actions drive the fast-paced plot. (I don’t usually pair “fast-paced” with fantasy, but if fantasy thrillers are a thing, these books sit squarely on that shelf.)
The Lunar Chronicals series by Marissa Meyer (first book is Cinder)
This is one of the most well-plotted series I’ve ever read. Each book has its own story arc, but there are also arcs that span the entire series. In Cinder, Meyer sets up everything that will happen in the next three books, without it feeling forced or info-dumpy. We meet all the major characters, but Meyer introduces the stars of the next three books casually, so their appearance later in the series feels natural. If you’re writing something with multiple viewpoint characters who spend a lot of time apart, or whose stories don’t intersect until well into the book, I highly recommend reading Scarlet, Cress, and Winter (books two, three, and four in the series).
Room by Emma Donoghue
For those who aren’t familiar with Room, this is the story of a woman and her five-year-old son who are held captive in a sound-proofed shed converted into a one-room living space. Told from the five-year-old’s perspective. The viewpoint is so unique, and so well done. If you’re struggling to decide on a POV, or are having trouble staying in your viewpoint character’s head, this is a great example of a case where viewpoint makes the story. Room is also a good study of using viewpoint to build a setting, or to hide information from the reader.
What books would you recommend to study craft?