Friday, July 06, 2007

How Reading Smut Improved My Mind

Not really. I just wanted to get your attention, and now that I have, here's my actual blog post...

Recently I came across a blog that posted the 'blogsters' opinion on 10 ways to improve your mind by reading the classics. This was a great blog post and I encourage you to check it out.

However, I'm going to list the same 10 reasons, but liken them to Romance Novel reading and how it, too, can improve your mind, or at least how it's improved mine...

1. Bigger Vocabulary

Since I began reading romance novels, joined RWA, started hanging with writers etc., my vocabulary has expanded because I'm forced to look up the words in the romance novels that I have never heard before, and because Alice uses some doozies on the blog. LOL But in all seriousness, I have to use the dictionary and thesaurus everyday now for one reason or another and it's all due to the fact that I read romance novels. I mean, when 'manhood' is just boring, why not use the thesaurus to find a more creative way to say it. :)

2. Improved Writing Ability

Reading romance novels has helped me in my own writing because I see how the really good authors 'show' the story, how they draw the reader into the action and romance by skilled writing instead of 'tell' the story and leave the reader on the edge of everything, wanting passionately to be let in.

3. Improved Speaking Ability

When you read either historical or contemporary romance, it fills your mind with ideas and ways of thinking that perhaps you've not ever had presented to you. I never liked history while I was in school, but the first time I picked up a romance novel by Julia Quinn and started reading about the Regency era, I was completely enthralled and have been ever since. This has helped me when discussing certain topics about the Regency era and other times in history that I never learned of in school; also, reading contemporary romance has opened my eyes to many different ways people live their lives and think. Having read this stuff, even though some may consider it trash or whatever, well, all I can say is it has helped me be able to participate in conversations that I otherwise would have been clueless about. Weird as it may seem, it's true.

4. Fresh Ideas

While reading the classics may give you a fresh idea about how to put a new twist on a classic story, reading today's romance novels gives a person a fresh perspective on what's hot or current, not only in the writing industry, but what's happening in pop culture. Take that novel "The Devil Wears Prada" for instance. I had NO idea that people actually lived their lives in such a world. I'm sheltered. I have no television reception and though I do watch movies, it never occurred to me that people are so ridiculously vain and stupid. It was a great way to learn about big city life and gave me some ideas for secondary characters and how to make them really shallow and selfish. I could have probably picked up a few ideas from relatives too, but I'm not going there right now. (snigger)

5. Historical Perspective

Like I mentioned above, I had no idea about Regency England before Julia Quinn's Bridgerton Series books came into my life. Then of course I started devouring all sorts of historical romance. Shannon Drake's Scottish Historical romance novels are some of my most treasured reading experiences and I've looked up historical events and facts because they sparked that interest in me. They opened my mind to ask questions that I just had to have the answers to.

6. Educational Entertainment

What could be more educational than reading? I mean, DUH! LOL

7. Sophistication

I'm not sure how to fit this one in, but I'm sure there's a perfectly good way. Hmm... sophistication from reading romance novels. Well, maybe having read a variety of romance novels has given me a sophistication for the understanding of how the human woman and man interact and learn to love and forgive, etc. Yeah, that's the ticket. Romance novels have taught me about relationships with both men and women and with friends and that's given me more worldly experience and knowledge, and that, my friends, is what sophistication is. :) Well, part of it anyway. lol

8. More Efficient Reading

I'm going to take this to mean that the more reading of romance novels, or any reading actually, can improve your reading ability and as you read (practice) you'll become faster and learn to pick up on things and have a deeper understanding about many aspects of life.

9. Develop a Distinct Voice

Reading romance helps one to develop their own distinct voice because no matter how hard they try to emulate another writer, their own voice is going to come through, and though they may suck at first, until they find their own voice, eventually, with lots of practice, it will come. Right? Please, let this be true!

10. Learn Timeless Ideas

I think that classic and modern romance give us plenty of examples of timeless ideas. Like I said above, putting a new twist on a timeless idea makes for great reading. I mean, how many times have Romeo and Juliet, Beauty and the Beast, The Taming of the Shrew been done and redone? A lot. That's how many. And putting a new twist on those timeless ideas helps us to understand them better and continue to love them.

So there you have it. My opinions and my blog post for Friday.

Are there things you disagree with or things you want to add to these 10 reasons for reading romance?

I love romance novels. I love the romance writer community. I've found some of the best friends of my life in you writers of romantic fiction.

9 comments:

Paty Jager said...

Great title! ROFL

Yes, to nearly all of these. Reading anything makes you a more rounded, knowledgeable person.

Being part of the Hearts Through History online RWA chapter lets a person know that those historicals are all rooted in historical facts. I swear there are some walking encyclopedias in the writers on that loop! If you have any questions on the history in Europe someone has the answer! So reading historical romance is an entertaining way to learn history.

Great blog, Piper!

Alice Sharpe said...

Reading smut improved your mind? I am intrigued. I'm hoping you give examples! I sit up straighter in my little chair and lean forward to gaze into the monitor, flicking a nervous glance over my shoulder lest a child be standing there. I don't want to contribute to the pollution of a young mind.

And I think, "Wasn't' it just a day or so ago I suggested Piper start writing erotica? Has she listened to me? My, that gal is a go getter!"

But wait! No smut! No pithy lessons gleaned from reading about writhing, pulsating, sweaty body parts --

And I'm also thinking about the times I have found my name on the internet followed by the first few words of the title of something I have written, i.e. "How Reading Smut Improved---"

I wonder if I type in "smut" in Google if your name would eventually pop up in the 889,005,789, 999 hits?

LOL!

What a fun post, Piper, although it amuses me that you hope reading romance novels will help you discover your own voice (#9). You have a very distinctive voice already and I would wager you have had it from first time you created a piece of short fiction back in grade school or high school. Most of us aren't sure about our own voice. It must be hard to recognize our own. But I agree with you that reading good books can help polish it.

I think what really helps with the voice thing is writing, though. Writing almost anything. It's like a pianist practicing the scales, over and over, developing the dexterity and facility with the keys that she then uses when tackling an actual piece of music.

I, too, have learned a lot from reading RS. I read what are now considered classics, authors most of you recognize but aren't really familiar with just as many of the people you mention are authors I recognize but haven't gotten around to reading. The first time I read about a certain flowering plant (cyclamen) found only in florist shops at the time, growing wild in the crags of Greek I was astounded! Who knew?

As far as life lessons and truths, one of the most poignant came when when I read Mary Stewart an eon ago. Her heroine met a person on a trail. They stop to talk, standing near a precipice. The person's bearing and polite conversation nevertheless grow increasingly alarming, terrifying the heroine, but is done so subtly the heroine isn't sure if it's her imagination and she wonders why it is that people feel so awkward acting on their instincts, why she's embarrassed to do what her gut tells her to do and run, why she stands there looking for a polite exit.

I have though of that so many times over the years when in similar if less dramatic situations. And despite changing times and more forthright females (and males), we all still find ourselves trapped by people who are rude in their manner but to whom we hesitate to respond with the same rudeness.

Good heavens, I do go on.

I liked all your reasoning, esp., the sophistication one pulled from your -- hat. Way to go.

Thanks for the chuckles,
Alice

Karen Duvall said...

All great points, Piper. Reading anything, even the newspaper (well, depending on the paper), can improve your mind.

To be perfectly honest, I read very little romance. But the books I do read almost always have a romantic element. I think the greatest advantage of reading romance, or romantic fiction, is the emotional gratification it offers. These kinds of stories touch your heart like few other genres can. They remind us what it means to be human.

wavybrains said...

Great post Piper!

I'd add that reading Romance allowed me to do well in school! No, seriously. In HS, without reading romance I'm sure I would have watched way more TV or gotten caught up in other things. But, knowing that I had a stack of library books (smutty though they might be) to look forward to got me through my homework. In college and law school, just knowing that as soon as break arrived that I could get a big stack of books motivated me to get through finals. Having something "light" to look forward to kept my brain recharged. I also think that because I read so many novels, the longer reading assignments in college weren't a challenge for me.

Like you, Piper, I've learned way more about history thanks to romance novels. Just this week, I learned that nobles often traveled by River in the winter in England to avoid the horrid roads. Never would have guessed that, but now, Thanks to Liz Carlyle, I've got a great picture of the 1830's in England. Thanks to Paty, I know that Oregon actually had a gold rush. (CA, Alaska, and Colorado tend to get all the attention in School.)

Genene said...

Very interesting post, Piper! Though I will have to mark you down for that title that titillated but did not deliver the smut! Maybe I'll take Alice's suggestion and ask Google to search for this topic ...

Seriously, you make a lot good points. History in romance novels is definitely more interesting than what they taught in schools!

Barbara said...

Reading romance novels has expanded my world, too. I learned a lot about the nursery business while reading Nora Roberts' series (Blue Dahlia was the name of one of the three books). I learned about Eugene's real estate market while reading our own Christine York's Dream House. I learned about Nantucket in The Hot Flash Club Chills Out. I like novels that take me to interesting places and situations I would not have visited otherwise.

As for smut, I just purchased a book at Borders called "Prime: Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love, and the Sensual Years" by sexologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz about enjoying sex into old age. I'm thinking it may inspire a scene or two in our wip. And maybe in our bedroom, too.

Good blog, Piper.

Piper Lee said...

Thanks Paty, I liked the title too. It just sorta popped into my head after I finished the blog post. I should look into joining that Hearts Through History chapter.

Alice-- You're too funny! Sorry I let you down about the smut part. I was just trying to draw the attention of all you naughty girls and figured that would do it. LOL Kidding!! Thanks for saying I have a distinctive voice. What a terrific compliment coming from someone as awesome as you! *Big Hug* I always learn so much from your posts and comments oh Wise One. (I'm not brown-nosing either! I meant it sincerely. So be quiet Eli! I can hear you now, so hush! LOL)

Karen-- Spot on! I've learned a lot about relationships from reading romance. It's all about the heart.

Wavy-- That's awesome that you read all through HS and used the novels as a great reward too. I use them as a reward this way... "Oh look, I've finished reading another romance novel, I guess I'll go reward my family with some clean laundry and maybe a small bite to eat before I start reading another one." LOL Loved the history you shared about the nobles floating down the rivers instead of using roads. I didn't know they did that either! Cool!

Genene-- Sorry I let you down too. LOL And you're right, I never paid a bit of attention in school to the history lessons. BORING! I usually fell asleep because Mr. Shope was so dry and dull that his droning voice lulled me into a catatonic state until the bell rang. :) But I LOVE history now. If only he'd suggested reading an historical novel once in a while. Darn it.

Barbara-- YOU GO GIRLFRIEND! That books sounds great! I think as couples get older and more mature in their relationships (and when their finished having babies) that their sex lives flourish and become all that they're meant to become. So kudos to you and have fun with that book's information!!! :) The Chapter will be expecting some really hot scenes at our next critique meetings. LOL Kidding!

Paty Jager said...

Piper, you do need to join HTH. They have info about Regency and earlier all the time on the loop and you can ask any question and several historians will pop up with the answer.

I'll bring info to the next chapter meeting. Since I'm the publicity chair I have it all! LOL

Piper Lee said...

Cooley hot, Paty! Thanks! I'm looking forward to it. :)