November 9, 2012

Inspired by the Best and the Worst

photo by Jason Michael
I started reading Brandon Sanderson's new novella, The Emperor's Soul, today. I'm only a few pages in, but already I'm inspired. What if the little signature stamps that the Japanese and Chinese put on everything had magical properties? From that simple premise, Sanderson has built a rich fantasy world, a complete magic system, and a compelling story.

Stories like this make me start looking at the world in a new way. Ideas start fermenting in my head and I can't wait to write them down. This is what the best books and the best authors can do.

However, I am also inspired by the worst books I've read. One I often think back on is James Patterson's Kiss the Girls. It was so terrible that I threw it away after finishing it (Of course I finished it! It was a mystery and I had to know whodunit.). I couldn't in good conscience inflict that book on anyone else by giving it away. His debut novel was a steaming pile of poorly-edited crap, and yet it got made into a big-budget movie and Patterson remains one of the best-selling authors of our time. I don't know whether the rest of his books are any good because I've never been able to bring myself to read one, but if he can start out that badly and end up where he is, there's hope for me, too.

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