Tips for Writing a Reading Response
Reading as a writer means reading closely for craft, how the author is using words, character, scene, summary, and other fiction techniques to create specific effects. Some things to keep in mind as you read and as you prepare your response:
This is not a book report or a literary critique. What you're examining, questioning, and thinking about is not meaning and theoretical interpretation but method, how the story was written, how the writer chose to implement the tricks of the trade.
Read the piece twice. First time through, let yourself simply have the experience of reading the story, noting overall surprises, pleasures, or problems you find. Second time through, pick up a pencil, read slowly, and make notes.
Read with a dictionary at hand. If you are not completely positive you understand the meaning of a word, look it up in the dictionary. (You may be surprised at what the writer was really up to.)
Underline sentences or passages that you have a strong response to, put question marks in the margin where you are lost or confused.
Put check marks over words and sentences where the writer is using the essential building blocks of fiction, such as characterization, providing specificity with details, creating world/place, slowing down or speeding up, using a structure, establishing a point of view, introducing a shift in plot or having a character make a choice.
Look back at your marks. What works well in the piece? What doesn’t?
Look at some of the more startling, daring, or questionable choices the author made (whether you agree or not). Why do you think the writer chose to do what he or she did? Do you think it works? Why or why not?
"Every page was once a blank page, just as every word that appears on it now was not always there, but instead reflects the final result of countless large and small deliberations. All the elements of good writing depend on the writer’s skill in choosing one word instead of another. And what grabs and keeps our interest has everything to do with those choices. "
–– Francine Prose, "Reading Like a Writer."