Sometimes a book is more than a book.
Sometimes a story is more real to you than your life, and the things you experience between its pages become a permanent part of your personal memories or impact your heart in ways that last long after you put it back on the shelf. The story becomes a part of you. Those are miraculous moments.
Sometimes a story doesn’t stay with you in a lasting way, but during the hours that you are in the world of that story, you are so absorbed and engaged with it, the characters are more real than the people in your life and their dilemmas fill your head even when you’re not reading it. While it lasts, you are transported.
My Changing Tastes
I used to like a long, involved, complicated epic — the longer, the better. Trilogies? Pshaw! Give me a rollicking twelve book series! I enjoyed getting to know the characters, their relationships, the culture, going to a strange new world and savoring its differences and its resonance with reality.
Not so much anymore. I make little time for “pleasure reading”. The stories I used to love I have little patience for now.
I used to read almost anything, and once I started I would NEVER give up. I had to know how it ended. I had to give the author the full length of the story to salvage it, even if I didn’t like it. I always held out hope with books I didn’t care for: maybe there would be a twist at the end that would make up for the rest of the book!
If you don’t catch me in the first couple of pages, I’m sorry. Not happening.
That’s not to say you have to start with immediate “action” or some life-or-death scenario. There just has to be something interesting. Nowadays I’m looking for an instant “click” with the characters — someone I immediately relate to or care about. Someone in a situation that promises adventure, intrigue, and ideally something out of this world (I do prefer speculative fiction — sci-fi, fantasy, etc — to the mundane stories of real life in the modern day). I love it when the writing and/or story absolutely delights me… but have a hard time anticipating or defining what prompts that delight.
And certainly, I want a story that keeps me wondering what’s next, that gets me emotionally invested in the characters, so that when I have to put it down, it demands to be picked up again — because I care.
If it doesn’t capture me that way, it’s likely to languish half-read on my bookshelf while I do the other “important things” life demands.
What Does It For You?
Help me out with some field research here, dear reader. What do you look for in a fiction book? What experience are you hoping to have? How often is your desire satisfied by what you read?