Monday, September 8, 2014

Things that have to happen for me to Enjoy a Book

Everyone that knows me, knows that I’m a picky reader.  Its ingrained in me and nothing will ever change it.  I don’t enjoy wasting my time and I’ve left quite a few theaters because I refused to sit through a movie that was bad.

But movies are one thing, books are another.  Books require a commitment, in fact, any reading does.  It takes your full attention and concentration.  Good ones just yank those from you and push out the world all by themselves.  The fact is, good books are rare, and some of the ‘best’ books in history fall short of me wanting to spend any time on them at all.

First and foremost, to me, is always emotion.  I have to be emotionally involved.  All other things I look for can fall short, if I’m feeling along with the characters.  The best example of characters, to me, has always been the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind.  When the characters felt love, I was right there with them.  Betrayal, heartbreak, happiness, triumph.  I felt it all.  I shed tears with this book, even though I can poke all sorts of holes in it.  The plot was predictable as all get out, I normally knew exactly what the next ten pages held, but I didn’t care, because I was feeling the story.

A world that ignites my imagination is always a good thing.  I’m not just talking about the setting, I’m talking about the life around the characters.  A friend of mine once recommended a book called, “The Darkness that Came Before.”  I did not get over a hundred page, if I even got that far.  There was a scene where two character were talking, and I felt they were surrounded by faceless mannequins.  It completely pulled me out of the story to a point I couldn’t get back in.

I very much remember my time in Jacquelline Carey’s Kushiel series.  It was a truly beautiful setting, that emoted a true passion from the writer.  The elegance and beauty contained in the books bled through, and I wanted dearly to be a part of that world.  I can say the same with Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, such a beautiful book, and the setting, of that time period is so easily romanced over.

Third but not least, is characters.  Characters will not make or break a series for me if the story is f’n amazing, but its nice when I care about them.  In the Strain Trilogy, I realized by the third book, that the only character I really liked was killed off.  As soon as that person died, I seriously thought about putting down the series and not finishing it, but I was intrigued by the story and the ideas.  Halfway through the third book, I found myself seriously hoping some of the main characters would martyr themselves, because I hated them.  Finishing that book was a chore.

Jason Bourne is by far the best thing I can point at to characters making a story.  I’m not big into spy stuff, I really don’t care for that genre at all.  I really don’t like some of the split personality stuff by the end of the original Bourne trilogy, but I didn’t care.  Jason Bourne was by far the most amazing character I’ve ever read.  He was someone I could sympathize with, someone I could route for despite all odds.

The last thing will always come down to plot.  The Strain’s plot and ideas kept me to the end far past me hating the characters, but it has never saved the Lord of the Rings.  I have never read Return of the King, and I never will.  I forced myself to read the Two Towers, and was so underwhelmed by everything involved....  And honestly, I’m glad I didn’t, because Peter Jackson’s changes to the story were genius, even if some of his other ideas left me wishing he'd had more time to think about things.

All these things combined normally make for a good story, one that I will want to spend my time reading.  If a story can pull me in, and have me care at all about one of these things, I’ll normally stay long as it doesn’t do one thing....

There is always something that will break a story for me.  One that absolutely shatters it for me if it happens.  If I can think of a way to do it better, screw it, the book is over.  Its happened to me several times, me questioning the author, and it will always be the end of the book for me.  Its one of the reasons why I loved having a library membership when I did, I could check out a book see if I liked it and decide what I would do from there.  I took so many books back unread....  Which I honestly consider one of the best ideas ever....  Why?  Because every now and then, I walk past our library of books on our shelves, and look at ‘The Darkness that Came Before’ and wish I’d have never have spent money on it....  And then I look at the Lord of the Rings series, shake my head, and walk away....

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