Friday, June 16, 2006

Moving Stories Mark II (and why we read)

Word count: as my count will stay the same while I work on paper edit, I am going to list more of my unusual words (see the previous Lovely Link with the frequency index)

Weird Word Count:

And so, the day has arrived. If you're wondering why I am blogging when we're about to move,well, this is the calm before the storm...No keys till lunchtime, then removal men, relatives, friends and cleaners descend. Will the house be a horrible mess (complete with herrings hidden under the floorboards?) - or will the people going have made an effort?

Watch this space...

Meanwhile I have been pondering deeper questions as one of the e-groups I subscribe to has been talking about self-indulgent bloggers who are daft to believe readers care about our pets (she had an anal gland infection by the way!) or our neuroses (mine are very well today, thanks).

So my big question today is, Why do you read? I suppose I'm mainly talking about fiction because newspapers and DIY manuals are more obvious. In my case, it’s such a lifelong habit (well, since I was three or four: what did I do before then?) that I haven’t ever asked myself that question before. On a basic level, I read fiction for entertainment: although I’ve worked in TV for 15 years, I find novels more of an ‘immersive’ experience. In TV circles these days, people often talk about the difference between ‘sit back’ and ‘lean forward’ experiences – the former is more like traditional TV which doesn’t engage you on a deep level, while the latter is typical of interactive experiences like the web, for example.

Now, you may not see books as ‘interactive’ in the traditional sense – with the except of those fun ‘multiple choice’ novels, they have broadly linear stories that we, as readers, can only change by skipping bits, for example. But we can’t help but interact at the most fundamental level as we imagine what the characters look like, how they sound, what they feel…

I tend towards novels that are contemporary or at least based in recent history (from, say, the Second World War); that have a distinct voice (often, but not always, humorous) and that feature at least some female characters…I don’t know why I make those choices, but they’re pretty consistent.

At a deeper level, Robert McKee has some interesting (if slightly overblown) things to say about the universal appeal of ‘story’ in all its forms – books, movies, oral story-telling – to human beings. I also liked this page of quotations about the nature of story… If you’re a writer, this isn’t a fanciful question because it’s a natural progression from thinking about why you read, to asking why someone might read your fiction. Not one to get hung up about, but interesting…especially once you’ve been ‘bloodied’ by a few rejections.

I’d love to know why you read…the comments function is at your service…

Lovely Link of the Day:
Via the e-group, I found the website of literary agent Andrew Lownie – a real added-value site, with some excellent features, including this article on a week in the life of a literary agent (recommended if you’re waiting to hear back on a submission!)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do I read? For information, for entertainment, but mostly to escape. But while I enjoy getting out of my own life, I also enjoy stories that turn out to not let me into a new life, but to hold a mirror up to mine, so that after reading it I can say that I understand things around me better for having seen them in a different context.

8:02 pm  
Blogger Sue aka MsCreativity said...

That's a great question! I know why I write but I've never given much thought to why I read.

I guess I read to primarily escape from the stresses of 'real' life. However, I also love to read about characters who go through similar events/emotions to me. Sometimes it's reassuring to know that we aren't the only ones to have gone through these experiences.

Incidentally, that's what I love about your writing. Your characters are 'real' and live 'real-lives'. From Old School Ties to Brown Owl's Guide you've captured the essence of real experiences that your readers can relate to.

Ps, I hope you don't find any horrible surprises...

11:00 am  
Anonymous Sharon J said...

Hmmm... that's given me something to think about and yet another way of procrastinating when I ought to be editing.

Like you, I like to have at least one female character in a book who should have a major role. All male stories just don't do it for me. Other than that, I don't think the books I read really have a whole lot in common. I mean, a Mills & Boon romance and a Stephen King are about as far from each other as it's possible to get, aren't they? Hold on... I like something to solve. Whether it's how the couple are going to work out their problems, how the good guy's gonna kill the monster, or who killed cock robin, there has to be something for my brain to work on the answer to. But most stories have that, anyway.


PS: Off to look up the meaning of ZEMMIPHOBIA now. (Had to copy and paste that one!)

12:31 pm  
Blogger Kate said...

Aha...interesting stuff. Thanks for the replies.

So far, we're all after something that touches on our own experience or our everyday lives, at least to some extent, aren't we? I have been going through about 30 boxes of books(no exaggeration)that have been in storage for seven months, and very few are in the 'sweeping novels set abroad' category. Give me Birmingham or Glasgow settings any day.

MsCreativity, you've made me blush at my laptop. But thank you - certainly, that's what I'm aiming at so it's very gratifying to 'hit the spot.1 And Sharon J, that 'something to solve' idea is a very intriguing way of looking at it. Often, but not always, that echoes what the protagonist is experiencing...

Thank you for replying! Kate x

6:08 am  
Blogger Kate said...

PS: Zemmiphobia: fear of the Great Mole Rat. 12,300 hits on google means it's a bigger problem that you might think.... ;)

6:11 am  
Blogger Nichola said...

For entertainment, escape and education, not necessarily in that order!

9:29 pm  

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