What I didn’t realise when I began writing was that it would change the way that I read. I love books. I have read all of my life and I read very quickly so during my thirty plus years I have read a lot of books. When I read I become absorbed in the world I am reading about. I am there with the main protagonist feeling their hopes, their fears, their pain, sorrow and happiness. It is not uncommon for a book to make me cry, or to laugh out loud. It is quite normal for me to be oblivious to what is going on around me and to be desperate to get back to the book I am reading at any opportunity.
At least that is how it used to be.
When I read now I find that I am considering how an author has grabbed me with their first line. Whether each chapter has ended on a cliff hanger. What exactly it is that makes me want to keep on reading (or on the rare occasions when I couldn’t care less, what has the author done wrong). When I am reading a book in a genre I normally enjoy I am feeling guilty that I am not reading that short story collection that was recommended to me, or reading more in the genre of my novel as I know I need to be aware of the market I am wishing to enter.
When I read now I read as a writer. I’m considering point of view, narration style and characterisation. I notice where the author tells and where the author shows and I try to deconstruct the plot.
Most of the time.
Every so often I read a book where, after the first few pages, I am carried away. I forget to question how the author has done it and simply enjoy being transported out of my life and into someone else’s for a while.
As I finish the last page I suddenly realise that I haven’t been paying attention, how can I emulate what that author has done if I let myself become so absorbed in the characters and the plot that I forgot to read as a writer?
Secretly though, I am pleased that the enjoyment of travelling down someone else’s road for a short period of time is not completely lost to me. That even though I am trying to be more aware of what I am reading and how it is done, sometimes, the magic of a really good book manages to drag me away from my life completely. That the author has found a unique combination of characters, plot and story-telling style that makes me forget that I am reading because I am right there in the middle of the tale. The way a good book is supposed to do*.
* The last book that I disappeared into was The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory – what about you? What have you read recently that carried you completely away?