18 July 2014

Life, Books, and a Corollary

I hate to admit it, especially since I love books, but I finally I had to put a book away unfinished. Here's another admission: this was my second time giving up on a book.

The first time this happened to me it was a college-bound reading list book. The story started with a group of old men talking about I can't even remember. What I do remember was the frustration at not knowing who was talking as there were no dialogue tags. None. There was no way the reader could've picked out who was saying based on character biases because we had only just been introduced to these gossiping gentlemen. I tried and tried to read that scene, but I just couldn't figure it out or get past it. (I realized long after I'd donated the book that it might not have been important to know who was saying what, but rather what they were saying. Despite that hindsight, I'm not going attempt to reread that book. Just the thought makes me cringe. Sorry Henry James.)

Just this week, I had to put another book in the donate pile. (The 2nd book in the series is in the pile too - because I'd do that, buy one book, see the next one, and assume that I'd want to read it.)  I'd actually gotten quite far into the story, about a third of the way through, by sheer willpower. The medieval England locations are a places I'd loved learning about (especially after spending two weeks in London this summer). Deceit and treachery laced themselves in and out of the story. It was the characters that just didn't grab me. I couldn't find anything likable about them, nothing to pull me into the story. The two things that kept me reading: the idea that I'd spent good money for the book and that it had to get better. It didn't.

I had to tell myself that life is too short. Life is too short to read books that don't grab me, that don't make me question, that don't make me feel.

That I spent that much time on the book is crazy. I have an entire bookshelf of unread books, I could've read at least two in the time I spent on the one I didn't like. However, I did learned a few things about another author's style, a way that story can be pieced together, and what doesn't work for me. But still.

As this is my place to muse about writing, I discovered a corollary about life and books: Life is too short to write books that don't grab me, that don't make me question, that don't make me feel.

If I'm not moved by the story I wrote, how can I expect my readers to be? I won't be able to touch every reader, but if I start with engaging me, then someone else is bound to be at least intrigued. While I've seen and heard the advice about writing a story that you want to read, I now have a deeper understanding of the tidbit.

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