Kathy Carlton Willis

Kathy Carlton Willis shines the light on God and His people through her communications firm as: writer, publicist, writer's coach, book doctor, speaker, and more. She’s built a network of industry connections and is affiliated with Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and American Christian Fiction Writers. Her columns and book reviews have appeared online and in print. She served as grammar guru for three publications and ghostwrites books and e-books. Kathy is a contributing author for The Reason We Speak, It Happened By Design: A Series of God-Incidence Stories and Groovy Chicks’ Road Trip to Peace. She has a background in newspaper journalism as copyeditor and feature writer. She is a contributor and editor of daily devotions for The Christian Pulse. Kathy and her pastor/husband minister together in Raymondville, Texas. She set up a church library and served as librarian for several years and also has facilitated church book clubs. Read her professional blog at http://kcwcomm.blogspot.com and learn more about her at http://www.kathycarltonwillis.com/.

Dig Deeper: Signs of a Good Book

Your one-stop CFOM resource—chock-full of how-tos and helpful hints—equipping you to get more out of your reading. Designed for the individual, libraries, and book clubs.

I’ve already received correspondence asking if this column can help book lovers read on deeper levels—to find even more significance in each story. So let’s explore some of the ways you can enjoy books even more. Yes—it’s possible! Here are a dozen questions to get you started. Next month we’ll talk about the elements of a good book.

What do you think of the story line? Is it so interesting that you find your heart racing, your mind spinning? Is the conversation so believable that you feel like you’re eavesdropping? Or does it seem stilted and manipulated to serve a purpose?

How do you feel about the characters? Do you like them? See yourself in some of them? Perhaps you’re reminded of other people you like or dislike. Maybe there’s a villain you love to hate, only to find he has redeemable qualities. Or the one you predicted to be the hero ends up, in a story twist, being deceptively wicked.

What emotions does this story elicit? Do you catch yourself laughing or crying while reading—or talking to the characters? Or maybe an incident causes you to argue with one of the characters, or to debate right and wrong.

What tension points come up between characters or in the story arcs? Maybe reading this story helps you think of better ways to interact with others through better relationships and communication. Does the suspense will leave you on the edge of your seat, or is it a yawner? If it’s a romance, are two men vying for the affections of the female protagonist? Whom are you rooting for?

Did the book captivate you so that you forgot the real world for a time? Perhaps the plot is so suspenseful or creative that you essentially enter a storybook time machine and are in a new place and time.

Does it challenge your opinions? Perhaps you see a character you would typically judge as ungodly being restored to God through amazing means. Or an issue like mercy killing or illegal immigration is shown in a different light.

Do you catch yourself saying, “I couldn’t put it down; it kept me up at night”? These are often called page-turners. If you find yourself not leaving the house, neglecting household chores, or forgetting simple hygiene, you’ve discovered a great read. Are you sad when the book is over because you wanted it to keep going? You just can’t get enough of it!

Is this the kind of book you’d love to share with others, but it’s so good you want to give it a place on your bookshelf? Who else would like this book? Before you even finish the book, are you already thinking of other people to whom you’ll recommend the title? Or if you don’t own the book, do you plan to purchase your own copy? If you simply must have this book on your shelves even after you’ve read it, it’s a sign you’ve fallen in love with the characters and want them to have a permanent part of your family.

Does the story enter your everyday life? Do you catch yourself referencing the book in regular conversations with

others? When a book becomes so woven into your day that you think about it even when you aren’t reading, that’s a good sign.

Is there any symbolism or allegory in this story? Sometimes character names, places, situations, or scenes represent a specific virtue or an ethical decision. It’s not even always necessary for every reader to come up with the same symbolism for a story. Deep allegories will often mean different things to different readers, based on all the life experience and backstory they bring to the story.

Are there layers to the story? Sometimes we like a good fluffy book that doesn’t make us think too hard. But other times we want a literary masterpiece that has layer after layer of relevance. How many “aha moments” do you have while reading a book? A multilayered story line will have more than one inspirational takeaway point.

Can you picture the story as if it were a movie? Perhaps you’ve even gone so far as to imagine which actors would play the parts. This is a fun exercise and makes the book come alive on a whole other level. You can manipulate the story with your imagination and make it a part of your entertainment world while reading, even when you’re thinking about it while waiting in line or at a stoplight. Let books enter other parts of your life, not just your reading time.

Reading Assignment: Ask yourself these questions as you evaluate your current reading project. Allow yourself to enter the world of story, and permit the book to enter your everyday world.

And as always, remember this: Life is too short for a mediocre book. If it doesn’t get you jazzed, put it down and find one that does!


Kathy CArlton Willis