While deciding what to write about today, I read this great blog post from YAtopia, in which they said:
Each of us readers has something we look for in a book – an element that will make or break it for us. Other elements may not be perfect, but as long as the thing we love best is excellent, we can still warrant five out of five stars. Of course, we all love a well-rounded story, but which of these elements is most important to you?
Strangely enough, this is on my list of things to blog about! (I have a running email to myself, in my ‘Author Blog’ folder in gmail, with blog post ideas because my brain is NOT a sieve like the lovely Veronica Roth’s, it’s a really crappy colander with gaping holes through which entire olives can escape!)
This is a topic I love discussing with other readers. How I phrase the question is thus: What do you read for? My mom reads to discover beautiful language. She loves well drawn descriptions and lovely lyrical passages. I have a friend who reads for the message in the story, the theme and metaphors (but she wrote her Master’s thesis on James Joyce, so it’s not surprising!).
So what do I read for?
Characters. I love people and their little quirks. My most favorite book of all time is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. It’s a good story and I enjoy it, but the characters to me have become my best friends over the last 14 years and 5 reads. I used to dream about being at Battle School with Ender and he was my best friend. I love Valentine and her complexity. And don’t get me started on Peter. He might be the most fascinating person in the whole book!
But my love of characters when reading doesn’t translate to my writing. I can’t focus on just my characters, because then my plot might begin to lag or I won’t incorporate the setting well enough. The same goes with the other elements: if you focus too much on plot, you lose the risk of a satisfying character arc. If you search too strongly for a beautiful style/voice, you may lose any emotional connection in the story and fail to convey your themes.
To be cliche, it’s a juggling act!
In reading we can be selective. In writing we can’t.
SO! What do you read for?