Monday, September 19, 2011
Why Do You Read?
I found myself typing a comment on a blog saying I don't really read to be entertained. Is this true? Or is what entertains me different from what entertains you? I'm not sure. But books I enjoy share certain attributes. And I bet your favorites do too.
For instance, right now I am reading a novel about a woman with Alzheimer's who's losing her memory day by day. Not entertaining in the usual sense, but the writing is so good and her experience so relevant and poignant, I don't mind being sad about it. But is this entertainment? I don't know.
What entertains me is good writing.
Books have to be well-written for me to enjoy them. And by well-written I mean that they must pretty much adhere to new writing/speaking norms. I can't get past writing that uses words other than "said" for attribution. I can't take too many adverbs or adjectives. Exclamation points must be almost non-existent. I hate puns. Even the most clever, takes away from the story.
I don't want to find too many obscure words when simple ones will do.
I can't take long descriptions of what a character is wearing or looks like. Descriptions (IMHO) must serve a purpose other than filling a page. As a reader, I like to create my own mental picture of what characters look like unless there is a reason for the writer to tell me more-for instance, the dragon tattoo on Salander's back was a necessary fact. That Jack Reacher is a giant is a necessary fact to understand why he can't be physically overcome by his adversaries. ( I don't however need to go shopping with him).
And this might be annoying to many of you. How do you feel about the use of complete sentences in stories? People don't always speak in complete sentences so why do characters in novels? I picked up a copy of a popular crime fiction magazine at Bouchercon and nearly every character seemed like the same person. Not just in one story but in many of them.
I have a lot more characteristics that make a book good for me really, but what are some of yours? What do you insist on finding in books you read?