It’s simple. And it really doesn’t matter what you read, either. Read the news, read novels, read non-fiction, and read the instructions on that video game before you play it, and don’t skip the cut scenes, either. Examine the dialogue.
But let’s focus on reading novels. In order to get the realism that is what we call reality, you must look over what has been successful in the past.
Not necessarily the plot (although that is important), but also: how did they create the setting, and the characters, and how did they make the reader think the character was a real living person?
What did they do for people to want to draw fan art and write fanfiction about it? What information did they give, and what information did they leave out?
Find a book you liked. Find a book you didn’t like so much. Think about these questions, and then think about the answers.
You can focus on the big stuff, like genre, and page length, and what publisher they used, but first, you must look at the little details that made the novel a novel that everybody – or at least, a significant amount of people – wanted to read, and have that world continue, whether in their minds or on paper or both. Before a book is a book, it’s a story, and before it’s a story, it is bits and pieces of dialogue and character traits and worldbuilding.
Before you write a novel, read a novel. After you write a novel, read a novel. Read many novels.
In order to write well, you must read.
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