Among other things about reading, I love being lost in a world different from my own - a world where small troubles like what to eat and where to live are not handled by me. Where the only choice I need to make is how many more pages I'll allow myself to turn before bed.
But since creative writing has been my area of study for the last 12 years, there are certain aspects of reading that I cannot disregard as I once did. Not to say that I'm incapable of losing myself in stories as I once did. That would be too strong a word by far. But the requirements and standards for such a book are rather more exact than they were when I was ten years old and reading Harry Potter for the first time.
Some of the most obvious of the elements that must be held to an exacting standard for me are:
- Pacing Don't lose my interest, or the gaps between paragraphs will yawn like cavernous gulfs and swallow me whole, making it all too easy to set down the book in question and simply not come back to it.
- Consistency This is more important in rereading than in a first experience, but if I can locate passages where established facts are contradicted, or if a character's name is changed between one book and another, or something of the sort, then I will not forget it. (Example: In Dragonflight, the first of the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey, the Fort Wyrleader is T'ton. In the following book, Dragonquest, he plays a much larger role, and is named T'ron.)
- Accuracy Language and words are important to me - increasingly so as I grow older and learn more of the ways of the world. Words that are used incorrectly or that imply meanings other than the one intended by the context can easily jar me from the total immersion I chase after. This one is less a general thing and more a quirk of my own peculiar character.
As I'm learning these things about myself as a reader, I'm better able to choose books that I'll enjoy, in addition to being able to give better reviews, knowing where my biases lie.
But every now and then, I discover things or experience things that don't necessarily make sense. For example, I recently finished reading Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson. It was a good book, but there was something about the pacing that seemed to unsettle me toward the final chapters. The pacing, it seems to me, was somehow out of step with the length of the book, so that rather than feeling like the story was coming to a satisfying conclusion (which it was, don't get me wrong) it felt more like I was finally drawing to the end of an extremely long tunnel, or a road with no turns. I felt as though the story had dragged, though I knew objectively that it hadn't. Like most other books, the frequency and intensity of action had escalated as the end drew closer, the pace accelerating per Western storytelling conventions.
But it didn't feel that way.
Was it something about my reading process? Was it a mood I was in? Was it a quality in my life that altered how the story ought to have been experienced?
I have no idea.
Hopefully I'll be able to figure this out and it will teach me yet more I didn't yet know about myself, as a writer and a reader. The more I know, the more accurately I can communicate - and communication is what language is all about. :)