Friday, March 16, 2012

Part 1 of 3 - Why People Read

If you want to be a good writer, you have to understand one very important thing: Why people read.

It’s gloriously simple and I’ve little doubt most of you know this without me needing to write a tutorial on it, but is it something you actually think about?

This is the first part of a three part tutorial on entertainment. It is primarily geared toward writers of fiction and is intended make you more ‘aware’ of what you need to do to make your writing work.

So, why do people read?

1. To gain knowledge.

2. Enlightenment and broadening of the mind.

3. Entertainment.

You should know which of these categories your writing falls into. Some will crossover between two and you should be aware of that. It will help you pitch and sell your novels and it will give them a place and a purpose in the world.

So now we have the three basic reasons, let’s look at them in a little more depth:

1. To gain knowledge. This is pretty straight forward. We’ve been using books to record information since ‘books’ were cave art. Before the internet, if you want to research anything you had to go to the source (e.g.: a doctor) or to the library.

Books are still excellent tools for research. They’re easier on the eye than computer screens. However we usually look at non-fiction books for knowledge as fiction books are typically, well, fictional.

2. Enlightenment and broadening the mind. The knowledge contained within books can be more than just facts. It can be ideas and concepts that can challenge our mind and open new pathways in our life.

There is a genre dedicated to this: literary fiction, where ideas and ideologies take the primary focus. Any paths you take down the road to enlightenment through reading will be a personal journey, so there isn’t much for me to say about it here. However I can say books can offer greater insight and invoke higher emotional response than reality for many people.

3. Entertainment. Now this is the big one for me personally. I write to entertain and I read to be entertained. The next two parts of this tutorial will deal specifically with entertainment and while I don’t consider it any more important or valid than the other two reasons for reading, I do feel it has the greatest potential. You can’t get a movie deal writing a cookbook, no matter HOW good your recipes are.

Now some people who read for enlightenment have some very strange views about reading for entertainment. This becomes particularly clear whenever a genre fiction novel becomes very popular. I remember when the forth Harry Potter book came out one critic bitterly complaining that the series didn’t TEACH children anything. That’s debatable, but the big question on my mind was, ‘why should it?’

Why should books teach things? Why can’t they just be entertaining like television, video games and the nifty little cousin of the book, the comic?

I think all books teach us something, even the trashiest of romance and the pulpiest of sci fi. However regardless of how you feel about that, I don’t see how anyone can debate that it’s okay for books to be entertaining.

It’s okay to read just for fun, people. Really.

That established, we’re going to move on to part two of the tutorial: What forms of entertainment are books competing with?


Copyright Talitha Kalago. 2006.

Edited 2012.

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