Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why Do We Read What We Read?

Erotic Fairytale - Doing the Baba  Yaga
Have you ever thought about why you like the type of books you like? And why, occasionally, you cross over a line to read something you normally don't read? I think about this all the time, especially when I respond to an interview question asking why I write what I write. The answer is, I write what I like to read. I write romantic suspense/mystery and paranormal, all heat levels. I read romantic suspense/mystery and paranormal, all heat levels. I also occasionally read historical romance and love it. I haven't written an entire historical yet but I definitely weave elements of it into my books.

So here's my take on why people prefer certain genres.

Paranormal is fun because there are no rules. It's pure escapism. Anything goes in a fantasy/paranormal story as long as you can sell it to your reader. If it's well written and presented realistically, your story can have green worm people with white goatees and cities built on the clouds with cars that run on strawberry Koolaid. It's also a fairly passive genre. It's fun and easy to just sit back and let the story unfold around you, infusing you with its unique flavor.  For readers who like to get lost in a world that has no resemblance to their own, paranormal is definitely the ticket.

Reading Romantic Suspense/Mystery is not a spectator sport. I like to think of this genre as the thinking man/woman's genre. Most people don't just sit back and let a mystery/suspense unfold. Those of us who love the genre are active participants in every story we read. A good mystery reader pays close attention to every detail of what happens, always striving to solve the mystery before the author reveals the solution. A good thriller reader is thinking two or three steps ahead of the story, trying to figure out how the hero and heroine will get out of trouble long before they get there. The mystery is a quiet pursuit of knowledge. The thriller is a heart pounding, neck tightening race. You definitely have to be in the mood to read either or both. But when you are, there's nothing like the thrill of a well written book in this genre.

Urban Fantasy is a special designation within the paranormal field. In Urban Fantasy the world may resemble our own fairly closely, but there are elements beneath the surface that are vastly different and magical. This type of book would appeal to someone, like me, who wants to believe there is more to our world than what we see day to day. The possibility of real magic living just beyond sight is compelling.

Historical romance draws in the reader who is fascinated, obviously, with history and how people lived long before us. The genre is interesting because, unlike the dull history books that were inflicted on us in school--dense with dates and boring facts pulled from the stories that would give them color--reading historical fiction allows us to put ourselves directly into that history...actually living it. While immersed in that fiction, we can feel the beautiful, constricting clothing, experience the frustration of restraints put on people through strict societal rules, smell the smells and see the colors and textures of the time we're reading about. In the hands of a talented author it can be a heady experience.

Science Fiction appeals to the geek in all of us. Like the mystery, you can't be passive reading a good sci fi novel. In science fiction nothing is recognizable. Even life on Earth, which would usually be familiar, can be vastly different. The world can be complex, with warring planets, intergalactic factions, and futuristic constructs of even the stuff we might recognize. It's not for the faint of heart and, if you're not an aficionado it might seem like a lot of work to read. But if you like to dream about what might be, someday, a science fiction story could be just the thing.

There are other genres and hybrids, but these are the major ones from my perspective. So, why do you read what you read? You read what suits your personality or your mood. You read what fulfills the need inside you at any given moment. You read what gives you what you crave, what you aren't getting in your everyday life. That's what makes reading and books so important and so much fun. They're like a personalized amusement park, where you don't have to travel, stand in lines, and pay exorbitant prices for your meals. #:0) But they're also medicine. They heal, they inspire, and they feed the imagination, allowing us to dream. For all that, books are a bargain, especially in the digital age!

Happy reading, everybody!


Donna said...

I tend to agree. I read most anything but tend towards escapism.

Sam Cheever said...

Hey Donna!

I've also noticed that when I'm tired I tend to read fantasy or paranormal vs one of the more active genres. A mystery, thriller or sci fi seems like too much work when I have low energy. LOL And I have to be in a certain mood to read a sci fi too. I'm just glad we have so many genres to choose from!

Thanks for stopping by!