Hello again, Adair Heitmann here, writing to you today about a different approach to the art and craft of writing. Recently I led a book discussion group, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. What I discovered revealed gems for me as a writer.
We have all heard the advice that if you want to improve your writing, read, read, read. I’m adding to that — to become a better writer, go to a book discussion group. While talking about complex, thought-provoking topics I noticed that everyone had read the book more than once. At one point I spontaneously asked, “What is it about the writing itself that makes Lee’s book so memorable?’
The answers came swiftly and articulately:
1. The book, written in the first person, is an adult’s reflections on one poignant time in her childhood. It is not just a trip down memory lane, the story has a purpose.
2. Lee covers big and universal themes like racism, loss of a mother, abuse against women, alcoholism, mental illness, incest, single parenting, good vs. evil, and the problems of prejudice fueled by a herd mentality.
3. Through Lee’s portrayal of Atticus, the above mentioned traumas have a voice that responds to the troubles of the world, an original action figure who says, “This is not right.”
4. Lee lovingly and honestly describes the small Southern town, in ways so that the reader feels like he or she lived there.
5. Lee weaves symbolism into her story while simultaneously keeping it very real.
6. Lee does not sugar-coat the realities of life, she portrays them through a poetic filter of hope, survival and justice.
7. Lee’s pacing of the book keeps the reader enthralled.
But don’t take my word for it. Borrow To Kill A Mockingbird from your local library. Read it and comment here on what it is about the writing that gives the book its longevity and appeal. Let me know your thoughts.
Until next time, keep on writing!