Thursday, 28 August 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This week's BTT:

"If you’re anything like me, one of your favourite reasons to read is for the story. Not for the character development and interaction. Not because of the descriptive, emotive powers of the writer. Not because of deep, literary meaning hidden beneath layers of metaphor. (Even though those are all good things.) No … it’s because you want to know what happens next? Or, um, is it just me?"

This is a tricky one to answer.

It possibly depends what mood I am in. If I'm feeling a bit off colour or lying in the sunshine then I am quite capable of reading books that require absolutely no effort and therefore no storyline to speak of. I could confess to the holiday in Portugal a few years ago where I read around ten Mills and Boon books back-to-back over the course of a couple of days*. But no. I don't think I will. I am also capable of reading books that require lots of effort - such as reading War and Peace whilst enjoying Thailand's beaches!

I will forgive a book a lot if it's got a fast-paced story (The DaVinci Code, anyone?) and I have that "I really want to know what happens next" feeling, however I've also found myself utterly unable to continue to read a book if the prose is too clunky or the dialogue stilted. I just can't stand sloppy writing even if the story is good. For example, I love the Bourne films but just can't read the books.

In spite of the best efforts of Mrs Brown and Mrs Collier (my A Level English Lit teachers), I don't think that I really look for "literary meaning beneath layers of metaphor", at least not consciously. I notice sentence structure though and pay attention to the author's choice of words. This habit developed after spending lessons examining the words of Shakespeare and Austen in very close detail and it's not left me yet!

For me, character development and authenticity is really important - more so than the descriptive elements of a book. Is it realistic that this person will react in the way that they do? Does the way they speak and feel feel convincing? Of course, it always helps if I like them or empathise with their situation!

I'm not snobbish about what I read - I enjoy quite a wide range of genres - and to enjoy a book it's all about pulling together the elements of an interesting story, convincing characters, good dialogue and descriptive text. Perhaps the answer is that I'll read a story because it has a "want to know what happens next" plot in spite of it lacking these features and not because of it!

* I will, however, point out that they were in the house we stayed in and not brought with me as my special holiday reading material!

16 comments:

Smilingsal said...

Good one! I didn't consider stitled dialogue or bad grammar when I answered.

janet said...

What a thoughtful answer.

I guess the good authors get us thinking beyond the surface without even trying -- ?

thekoolaidmom said...

I agree that characters are important, otherwise why would we care What happens next. And I also agree that clunky, pitiful writing cannot be overlooked, even for the best stories.

BTW, what is it with Lit teachers sucking all the pleasure out of a book by making us search for deeper meaning?

Kat said...

In spite of the best efforts of Mrs Brown and Mrs Collier (my A Level English Lit teachers), I don't think that I really look for "literary meaning beneath layers of metaphor", at least not consciously.

Exactly what I was thinking. Hehe.

gautami tripathy said...

You made some valid points here! I couldn't agree more..


Booking through stories

rjsbooklady said...

I love a good story,but I'm not nearly as forgiving as you are, though I sometimes wish I were. I need a story to have well-drawn characters and thoughtful development, and the English major in me just automatically looks at symbolism and metaphor. I can't help it--I'm a book nerd!

Bluestocking said...

I agree with you completely. Yes I think a well writtenstory will get you to think more deeply without effort.

Debbie said...

hahaa....I'm now thinking of all the stitled dialogue I've come across. It really can ruin a good story.

Susan B. Evans said...

I also can forgive a lot if the story is good. When I look back at a book after reading it, the story is what stays with me. Not even the most glaring grammatical mistakes matter much to me in my overall enjoyment of the book.

Shannon at Confuzzled Books said...

I agree that how well a book is written can effect. I know there have been many a books I put down to never pick up again because I was annoyed at the way it was written.

bethany said...

wow, you wrote a ton on that! yeah, I didn't think too hard about my answer...it is hard to read bad writing, I will agree on that one for sure :)

happy BTT!!

softdrink said...

Good answer! Like bethany, I didn't put nearly as much thought into mine! There's definitely a need for balance between having a story and being able to tell it in a way that makes me want to read it.

Table Talk said...

I am always going to be most engaged by a strong plot line but that doesn't mean that I don't give attention to how the plot is narrated and how the characters that people the book are fleshed out. If those are done badly then I'll almost certainly abandon the book. However, if the plot is weak or non-existent it will go down a lot quicker.

StuckInABook said...

Oh dear, I'm feeling rather snobbish today... I *do* look for all those fancy things in books, but generally my only conscious thought is "what good writing". The style and the character are the most important things for me, and consequently I read a lot of books where nothing happens, and bore people rigid when I recommend them! Each to their own.

Peta said...

Dear me. I've just realised that, in spite of reading all these lovely comments as they came in, I've failed to respond! I am sorry.

It's interesting to have read the range of responses to this BTT question over on various blogs as there is a lot more variety of response than I would have expected. I am glad to see that I'm not the only person who will abandon a book because of the writing style. Or lack thereof!

Peta said...

Oh - and in response to Stuckinabook. I am very happy to read books where absolutely nothing of any importance happens simply because I am enjoying the way in which nothing happening is told.

Perhaps that could be an interesting theme for a month long book challenge! Although... How little happening could qualify a book. I'll have to think on that one!