17 January 2011

The Relativity of Riding

To paraphrase my favorite Twentieth Century physicist, "Reading and writing are both but different manifestations of the same thing - a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average writer."

My granddaughter Kyleigh gave me "The Perfect Stocking Stuffer" for Christmas--a book. The quote was on the front cover of that gift book, 'The Christmas Clock' by Kat Martin.

I'm not a romance reader, but I thanked Kyleigh most earnestly for the gift of a book, then I swallowed hard, and I set about reading the novel in plain sight as I knew Kyleigh would be watching to see if I would read and enjoy her gift.

So, on our two-hour outings to the park nearly every day during the Christmas break, I took my comfy folding chair, my reading glasses, and "The Perfect Stocking Stuffer" with us.

I sat and read as Kyleigh and her brother, Caleb, played on the equipment and made new friends in their new town.

Now, Kat Martin's been quite successful, and I'm never one to deride the success of a writer in a genre I have absolutely no interest in writing let alone reading. So, my comments are not directed at Kat or romance writers; rather, the following merely reflects my personal tastes, likes, dislikes, and sensibilities.

I read the Prologue. At the first break in Chapter 1, on page 4, I knew how the story would end.

Okay, I thought to myself, this is going to be a long trip until I finally get to the Epilogue. I never turn to the back of book I am enjoying to see how many more pages I have to read--not since graduate school when I had to read some god-awful artsy-fartsy Euro-trash novels.

At that Chapter 1 break, I flipped to the back.

Whew! Thank God: the final fifteen pages were discussion and an excerpt from an upcoming novel. 

However, I still had to ride it through to the Epilogue, which finally ended on Page 172.

I felt as though I were slouching towards Bethlehem rather than participating in a wonderful and insightful adventure.

The reason the trip was long for me is because I had nothing to do as the Reader.

I was a passenger in the backseat being taken for a long ride to a place I didn't want to go. I couldn't see over the front seat to at least get a glimpse of the approaching scenery. Besides, the trip was quite predictable anyway--but, still, "A view! A view! My Reader's Sanity for a view!"

The back windows were tinted and the driver was going at such a pace that the view from the back was dark and uninteresting even if I could see it clearly.

I the Reader want something to do while I'm reading. I'm not merely a some wayward passenger being taken for a ride. I'm an active participant in the tale's journey--at least I should be!

After all, damn it, I paid for the trip when I (or at least Kyleigh) bought the book. I have some say-so in the type of road upon which I'm being taking for a trip.

So, I've come up with my Relative Theory of Story Telling:
Or, Reader Enjoyment=Writer and Reader Journeying Together.

Note to Writer Self: Give the reader something to do while he is journeying through the tale--not just merely reading--not merely a bored passenger in the backseat with a limited or no view at all. 

Place the Reader in the Front seat. Your book, my book, all books should be like one of those driver's ed cars that has a steering wheel and a brake on the passenger side as well.(Second Note to Writer Self: Post it note this reminder to the wall in BIG BOLD RED LETTERS.)

Let the Reader drive occasionally.

Let the Reader be a "backseat driver" occasionally.

Let the Reader turn left even if You the Writer want to turn right.

Let the Reader brake, accelerate, cruise, or drag race occasionally.

In non-analogous words, bring the Reader into the Story.

The Story should be told in such a way that the Reader is as much a Character as the Writer, the Protagonist, and the Antagonist are.

Sadly, too many writers treat the Reader like a scurvy hitchhiker the Story has had to reluctantly pick up along side the road and then treated like one of those bobble head dogs on the dashboard.

For, Reading and Writing are, after all, different manifestations of the same thing--the Adventure of Story.

Kat's story gave me nothing to do after page four.

Kyleigh would quiz me at times about the tale, and I would tell her what was happening.

I'm glad she didn't ask me if I liked the story.

I don't like being dishonest or deceptive to my Grands.

She did ask me if I liked the book as a gift.

Oh, yes, Kyleigh! I loved the gift of a book from you.

Actually, Kyleigh gave me two books for Christmas. The second is much more to my liking, and I'm dieing to sink my teeth into it next.

The book? 'Abraham Lincoln--Vampire Hunter'!

See you on the bookshelf.

Larry Mike

PS: To be honest, I liked the tale of 'The Christmas Clock' itself--it was the storytelling, the mode of transportation, that bored me. I was taken for a ride in a 1976 Chevy Chevette when I prefer to ride in a Lexus of any year.

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