Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Setting, Character or Plot? What Draws Me To a Book? Why Do You Care? Can I Possibly Get More Words In This Title? By Charles Dickens (or Tracy Kiely)

Good day, Gentle Reader. Our topic today is “Setting, Character or Plot? What Draws You As a Reader?”
Which you probably already figured out from the above title.
Well, you know what, Gentle Reader? Smugness is always unattractive.  Especially at this hour.
But I digress.   
I was relieved to see that “Cover” was not one of the offered options. I once chose a book based on its cover. It held the same disastrous results as the time I picked a wine based on its pretty watercolor label; headache, nausea, and a fervent promise NEVER to ever, ever do that again.
However, that (perhaps unnecessarily) said, I think I do tend to lean toward setting in picking my books, which is odd, now that I think about it, as I write based on character. When I write, I spend a great deal of time with that character. I know what they like to eat. I know what kind of toothpaste they use. I know everything. Everything. I have to like them, or I would end up like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and chuck them off the nearest cliff to a watery grave.
Of course, if I did succumb to such a temptation, and push my Austen-quoting sleuth Elizabeth Parker off a ledge I suspect – oh, hell, I know, that there would not be a public clamoring for a miraculous revival of my fair heroine.
Not that I’m bitter.
I’m digressing again.
(This is what happens, Gentle Reader, when you plan your day out beautifully – as in the angles in the heavens are SINGING beautifully – and you have a teenager in need of his social security card and IT IS NOT IN THE PLACE WHERE IT ALWAYS IS AND THREE HOURS GO BY AND YOU STILL CAN’T FIND THE DAMN CARD AND YOUR FACE DOES THAT THING THAT MAKES THE DOG CRINGE AND SUDDENLY IT’S ONE IN THE MORNING AND YOU STILL HAVEN’T WRITTEN YOUR BLOG.)
Deep breath. Focus. FOCUS!! (Echo! Echo! Echo!)         
Right. When I pick the book I want to read, to disappear into, I tend to focus on the place it will take me, rather than the people who I will meet there. I may have mentioned this once or twice before,* but I am something of an Anglophile. I love England. I love Ireland. I love Scotland. I love books set in those locals, as long as they are set in a certain time period. I prefer books set in the past rather than those set modern day. I’m not exactly sure why – I’m sure there are those who would say that it has to do with a yearning for a more innocent time, but I think not. After all, please remember, I like those times with an inconvenient dead body sprawled on the heirloom Persian rug in the library. And maybe one inexperienced maid who might be counted on to drop the silver breakfast tray she just lugged up the curved mahogany staircase upon discovering said corpse.
(Except that I’m pretty sure – based on extensive experience in playing the game Clue – that the library is generally found on the first floor.  Whatever. Someone, at some point, must drop the damn tray.)
I love losing myself in a different culture, with different architecture, cuisine, and social etiquette. (Well, as much as England in the 1930s is “different”).  
After some deep reflection on this juxtaposition of my preference in reading to my preference in writing, I realized why I prefer books set in distant lands in the past.  
*Once or twice before roughly equals 8,435 times.       

1 comment:

Meredith Cole said...

I'm often attracted to books in the bookstore by their covers, but that's not why I choose them either. And I also like an interesting setting when I read--preferably somewhere like the arctic when it's over 100 degrees around here. There's nothing like living vicariously...