Why I Read the Same Novels Over and Over Again as if That’s Normal

downloadMy mother cannot read the same book twice. She just can’t do it. She has made exceptions for franchises like Twilight and Hungry Games, but only as a refresher before she goes and sees the movies. She is constantly looking for new material to entertain her, new characters to meet and new plot lines to follow. I, on the other hand, can’t put a good book down.

The first time that I read “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell was in sixth grade. It’s 1,024 pages long and I finished it in a weekend. Since then, I’ve consistently read it again once or twice every year. Sometimes, when I’m having a bad day or am feeling entirely uninspired in my own writing, I’ll flip to the part where Rhett steals a horse for Scarlett, or where Frank Kennedy falls in love with a girl dressed in drapes as if that’s where I’d left off, and read on from there.

I’m not a fiction writer. I write fiction, sometimes, but it’s not how I identify. I am, however, a fiction reader. I love analyzing the same plot line over and over again; I love crying when my favorite character dies or losses love all  over again. I enjoy it just as much as I enjoy finding new literature to read.

I think, in part, it’s because I understand how much a writer has to go through to create something like this. To write a novel, or even a poem or a short story, a writer has to know their characters fully. We don’t usually make things up as we go along. We usually plan things out, we think about who our characters are; we think about how and why these things are happening to them. To a writer, their characters are real people. So to me, when I read about them, these characters are real people too.

The best part of writing is that it encapsulates humanity. I think that I read the same novels again and again because I can relate to them, even if the story does take place in Georgia during the Civil War or in a constant loop of reincarnation. I see myself in the characters and in the lessons they learn. I want to see their triumphs, to laugh at the funny things that happen in their lives and even to relive their heartbreak. Novels remind me that everything ends, but also that everything can begin again. It’s kind of hopeful. And so, I can’t ever really move on from a story that truly touches me.

Do you have any novels like that?

-Savannah Thanscheidt, Web Editor 

Fiction as Told By a Poet

Beautiful-Pool-with-Exotic-ViewThis year’s transition of genres was especially hard. Last year, I hardly noticed.  Moving from fiction into poetry was a prize at the end of the road. Junior year’s second semester opened the door for my voice. A voice, that in the first semester, I didn’t even know was there. And this year, I felt the hinges break off. Of course, beginning with the immersion of poetry gave me a taste I wasn’t ready to let go come January. I was scared that all of the progress I made in poetry would fall excruciatingly short in comparison to fiction.

I am unbelievably happy that I was wrong.

All that I’ve learned in since January has truly surprised me. And it hasn’t all been in the classroom either. Before this year, ideas for stories never came to mind like poems did. Whenever I go out now, I find a character in unintentional eavesdropping, a setting at a stop light, and conflict everywhere I turn. The pages in my journal now hold something other than line breaks.

Fiction, dare I say it, is beginning to feel natural.

The way I see it, poetry is a well leading to an underground reservoir. Each line plunges you farther and farther to the source, the intention, the purpose of the piece. Fiction, on the other hand, is an in-ground pool. Its depths and shallows are chosen very specifically. There’s room to swim around—even a patio to socialize and sunbathe. Fiction allows you to take your time. But in any sense, lazily. This room promotes emotional investment that poetry’s brevity sometimes prohibits.

Fiction is a second home that always reminds me of my first. The childhood house that felt like a fortress to get lost inside. Fiction is not wanting to find my way out.

-Mariah Abshire, Editor-in-Chief 

Becoming the Storyteller

jordan bp fictionWe learn the art of storytelling as children. We embellish our experiences, come up with new ones, more interesting stories to tell. This is not to be confused with lying, a not entirely separate art we master in the same time frame. Lying and storytelling serve different purposes, the latter definitely a more celebrated craft, and more enjoyable to be ensnared in.

The beauty of a story is that there is no one way to tell it, and it does not have to be your own. In reading and writing, I prefer the story behind a poem to a narrative in fiction. Longer pieces have more room to develop setting, characters, and so on through scenes. That can be done beautifully and uniquely with perspective, narrative voice, dialogue. But in poetry, the detail in describing a moment can tell a story just as vividly in a few words. I feel like there is more room for interpretation, and just enough is given to you to make the experience resonant. There is the opportunity to decide on backstory, character motivations, etc in either genre, but I feel like poetry allows the reader to feel more connected to the story. The reader becomes the storyteller to fill in the missing pieces.

I love the escapist quality of reading fiction, which is not always attainable with poetry, when the described experience becomes your own. Writing fiction remains a challenge for me since I’m so used to seeing the story in a moment. It’s hard to step back and create something full in a less confined space.

-Jordan Jacob, Junior Editor-in-Chief