6 January 2018

Writers need to be Readers

It’s been a quiet Christmastide at Acaster Alcoves: daily walks, some socialising, but lots and lots of  reading.

As far back as I can recall, Christmas reading has meant research reading, but this year it has meant reading for pleasure. Except, for a writer, there is no such thing. 

Can I recognise the author’s misdirections? Can I second-guess the character developments, the denouement? What is causing me to skim, to withdraw from the fiction’s reality? Is the tenor used suitable, the balance of dialogue to narrative, the cut between characters?

Reading, especially for pleasure, is always a teaching tool – if we keep our eyes on the ball and our minds on the bounce. For one, I learned that I prefer reading off the page to listening to a dramatised audiobook. But far, far more important, my reading emphasised that characters are everything.  No amount of celebrity puffs or won awards will enamour me to a novel whose characters are out of step with their professed careers, or refuse to see what is staring them - and the reader - in the face, or have insightful epiphanies on the flimsiest of detail.

Readers are people, so characters had better be people, too. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle accepted this pre-requisite, otherwise he would never have gone to such lengths to have his Sherlock Holmes explain how his deductions were based on fact which Watson, and readers, had failed to notice. Elementary, or what?


  1. As a reader only - I do not always identify why a book feels "off" or just words on a page. The character development is what makes me fall out of reality and into the lives of the people on the page.

    1. And that is exactly how it should be, Sharon. A reader should be able to luxuriate in the alternative reality offered by the author without the who, what, when, where, how and why (particularly the why) clogging up the experience, for *experience* it should be!

      Many thanks for calling by to offer your reader's view. It's much appreciated.