Friday, February 06, 2009
The Readers Perspective
My brother came over to help my sons with their fingerprinting merit badge the other day. He's a retired Deputy Sheriff and he was able to borrow the County's older set of fingerprinting supplies. The boys had fun, and he said the oldest of the two did pretty good for a first timer. He'd seen worse. I wondered if that meant anything, but my son has no interest in police work, so I guess not. (Unless he becomes good at having them taken...shudder)
While he was here, we had a short discussion about reading. I related to him how my children seem to hate reading until they are about to leave junior high, and then suddenly something switches and they love books -- they devour them. He went on to tell my son that there's something about a book that's written a certain way. He personally likes descriptive books, ones that are able to put you in the location or scene.
He said, "If you can feel the warped and worn wood under your feet on the wharf of San Fransisco, the worn railing on the sides, smell the diesel from the boats below and feel the salty breeze on your face, that's worth reading."
I thought it was interesting to hear his point of view. I would never have said my brother was a reader -- he's always been too busy working. Even now, after he's 'retired', he works two jobs; one as a security officer at a local chemicals plant that produces the rods for nuclear power plants (ugh!) and then as a volunteer fireman for his city. (They actually pay once a year, which I think is odd for volunteering. ..) But in that light, I can see where perhaps he is very selective about what he reads because he has so little time to do it.
So we have one man's perspective on what makes a good book.
My thoughts, on the other hand, are different. I want substance to the plot -- I want real characters and believable story. The location and scene are important, but that's not what I remember about what I've read.
I just finished a book that's mainly for the YA market, and I can understand why it's doing well. It is a good book, it's well written, and I think my younger children would really like it. On the other hand, it didn't have a lot of substance. Two of my older children finished it within an hour or so (it took me almost a week because I don't have a lot of spare reading time either) and my daughter said while she liked the book, she thought it was 'weak.'
I felt the same way she did. It didn't have substance in the core of the story. I mean it had a good story line, but it seemed almost formulaic. You pretty much knew that they were going to over come and things would work out in the end. You don't exactly know how, but you suspect. And while the characters go through several difficult times, most of them are just characters.. .no real depth to them.
So in one way, I guess I'm like my brother. I want richness in my reading. I hope that I give that to my readers. I know in some of my stories I don't because of the type of story they are -- but now I know what some of my audience is looking for, it helps me aim for it.