I recently went home for a short visit and picked up an old favorite book of mine (from ages ago–middle school, I believe): Sabriel by Garth Nix. I started reading one night since I didn’t feel like reading critical essays from my course packet, and I found myself just as entertained as I was so many years ago. Sure, the writing felt much simpler and at times less than stellar, but the story and intricately detailed world was just as satisfying. There are two things I gathered from my choice to re-read this book.
1) It’s important to take a break from the high-level, top-notch, and sometimes difficult literature you are required to read in grad school. I was finding myself sluggishly dragging myself through my readings for class because critical essay after historical play can take a toll on you after a while. But picking up this simple and enjoyable book from my childhood helped bring back that love of reading that was lost in the pages of my work. Sometimes a reminder is what you need to help get you back on track and focused–and to help you appreciate damn good writing.
2) Exciting and intricate details stick with readers. While reading Sabriel, there were definitely things I had completely forgotten about. I had forgotten about all the bloody sacrifices and trips into death, but I remembered almost every detail about the Abhorsen’s house, which if you haven’t read the book is a protected house surrounded by water and filled with magical servants, as well as an awesome talking cat. You never know what details are going to stick out to your readers so make sure when you write a story to give each place, each scene, and each character an authentic feel and something interesting to make them stand out. The talking cat was the dry, spiteful humor for the book which is what made him so memorable. And the house was extremely well thought out. So if you want your readers to remember your work 10+ years after they read it the first time, include some interesting and uniquely memorable details that will stick with them.
And if you’re into Middle Grade and Young Adult fantasy, check out Garth Nix’s other work. Because he is in the genre that I’d ideally like to write, I’ve read a lot of his work. I suggest Shade’s Children and the Keys to the Kingdom series.