Reading as a writer isn’t simply about reading the possible, it’s about reading the actual too. By which I mean, as you develop your reading skills, you will begin to be able to see the twists coming. Now, I don’t mean you’ll become an infallible plot predicting machine, that would be dull. However, as you begin to automatically filter what you read you’ll pick up plot cues that other people might not.
Perhaps, if we refer back to Imagery, Imagery, Imagery, you pick up that little gesture or the positioning of characters and think, ‘Hmmm, I wonder if that’s significant?’ Then ninety pages in you’ll discover it was and you were right. Or it might be something that appears to be a plot inconsistency or makes you wonder what the character is doing but it turns out that it was part of the plot all along. If it’s done well I find myself internally doffing my cap to the writer and thinking, ‘I see what you did there, very clever.’
This might sound like it could get quite dull but thinking about any sort of art like this can help you in your writing. In some cases it might be that you learn something picking up the cues a writer drops along the way and seeing how they bring everything to a satisfying conclusion.
At the other end of the scale there’s picking out these moments and finding that you don’t think the writer formed a satisfying conclusion. Working out why this is and how you think you might do it helps you to develop your own writing. In this way you cultivate your own ideas about how a story should go or you discover techniques you might not have considered.
Sometimes you’ll come across a twist you don’t foresee and it can be interesting working out why that was. Did the writer not drop enough clues? Did a red herring or two throw you off? Or was there something about the story that gripped you so tightly even your trained brain was carried along with it? If so, why so?
It probably sounds like reading as a writer is a series of never-ending questions, which in a way it is, but once you get into the habit of asking these questions you won’t need to ask yourself them. Eventually the questions will become ingrained to the point that by the time you get to the end of a book, movie or TV show you’ll have a fairly good idea as to your opinion of the writing when you ask yourself what you thought of it.