“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” Mark Twain

Friday, September 21, 2012

Am I Jaded or Is Something Missing?

Being a writer has changed the way I read books. That's a good thing. And a bad thing.

Good things:
  • I can more easily recognize and explain what I like about books.
  • Plot twists delight me more.
  • I better appreciate a well turned phrase more.
Bad things:
  • I can more easily recognize and explain what I don't like about books.
  • It's easier to predict the plot.
  • Lots of writing fails to draw me in and engage me with the characters.
It's that last bullet that I think about the most.

I've been reading on my own for 50 years. Libraries are a way of life for me. I adore bookstores, especially used bookstores where I can afford to buy something. I tend to gravitate toward the classics and literary contemporary books of various genres. Not so much bestsellers. Things like Jane Eyre. Authors like Steinbeck and Dickens. And L'Engle, Leguin, And of course there are many more that escape my memory.

These days I'm reading my indie-author peers quite a bit. There are slews of us in every genre. Unfortunately, I'm find a common flaw with many of the books I'm reading.

I don't care as much as I would like about the protagonist. It's not that I don't like them as...people. They're nice with goals I understand. They're just not deep enough, three-dimensional enough, not emotionally there enough. They tend to think the same things over and over.

Romances are easy to come by on Kindle for free. I kind of hate to admit, as a person who would love to live by my writing one day, that I get most of my books for free. But I try to leave a review, especially if there are not many posted. And I talk about what I liked.

So, I've been reading contemporary romance. Because that's sort of what I write.

And most aren't satisfying. I don't feel the loneliness of the protagonists before they meet the one, or the elation or the frustration when they do. The characters experience something, but not deeply enough to pass on to me. I'm kind of like, Meh, that's nice. Or Really?  Or, That's too bad. Life goes on.

Kind of like watching a movie while doing something else and realizing I'm getting enough of the story to know what's happening so I don't have to stop what I'm going to focus. And the movie doesn't do enough to make me want to stop what I'm doing, so I don't.

Like I said earlier, I've been around the library stacks quite a few times, and around the  proverbial block. Somethings just don't get to me like they used to; the old been there done that. But a good romance should, don't you think? Am I not still a woman? Is my heart not still beating? Last time I checked, yes to both.

For a little while I thought, well, it's just me, I'm jaded. But then I remembered some books I've read lately. South of Bixby Bridge by Ryan Winfield. Trevor pulled me into his life completely. Another is
Into the Free by Julie Cantrell. These books weren't like, "Well, I guess I can read a little now." They were like, "I've GOT to read. Now!"

New books, new authors who know how to engage readers.

I'm still going to support my fellow indie authors by reading and reviewing the books that appeal to me. And I'm still reading each one hoping it will hook me so I HAVE to read it.

With most of my life behind me, and as a writer, I don't have time to waste on what doesn't compel me to keep reading.

What about you? How do you engage with a book? What sucks you in and holds you? What disappoints you it it's not there?


  1. I learned long ago not to go to movies with actors. They never shut up and they point out everything that's wrong with the movie, mostly things I was just as happy not knowing about. Now I'm finding the same is true watching movies with writers. I really don't want to hear that the plot of an old favorite is trite and predictable, or that the actions of my favorite character really aren't plausible (and why -- in haunting detail). And I have the same problem with books. For a while I thought it was depression that made it hard to get lost in them like I used to. Then I decided I was just getting old and had read every plot twist there is. But every once in a while I will pick one up and feel the old magic. It's just more rare to find something that makes me forget what I've learned about writing!

  2. Knowing too much can be a negative sometimes, but it makes the ones with the old magic that much more special.

  3. I've been feeling the same thing recently. Thanks for putting into words. I just haven't felt...engaged with a lot of characters. (Not just with indies--I'm much more critical of all fiction these days.) So many characters just don't interest me. Maybe Eugenie is right--it could be something about getting older. We've been there/done that and want to be shown something different--deeper and more intense.

  4. Anne, I have also finished "real" published books with a "meh" or haven't finished them at all. After I wrote this, I read something on a screenwriting blog about compelling conflict. Maybe that's a problem, too. Next blog topic! Thanks for taking the time to comment.


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