Thursday, March 09, 2006

I've been thinking lately about why we read, and about why we read what we read.

Some people read for edification. To learn something or to experience reality in a new way. Many of these people read because they have to--they need to keep up with markets or the doings of others in their company or because they're in one school or another and the teacher has assigned them materials to read. Many others don't "have to", but still choose their reading materials as a matter of "should." "I should read this new best-seller/classic/whatever."

Then there are those of us who read purely for entertainment. We are legion, and ageless. We range from the children giggling at the tales of Captain Underpants or waiting anxiously for the next Harry Potter book (though many HP fans are parents or grandparents) to the grandmothers catching up with their monthly subscription of Harlequin Blazes. We read because we like it. Because we can escape from our everyday lives into something different. More fun. More exciting. More...just more.

I think this is why I write what I write. It's sort of the same thing as reading what I read, only really slowly. All of us who contribute to this 2 B Read blog write romance. Romance digs into the deepest needs of human existence and promises a satisfying ending. I've added the magical adventure of fantasy to the romantic topics of love and relationships. I guess that means I'm more escapist than most--dunno. But fantasy, in the end, is about good triumphing over impossible odds, just as romance is about love winning out over despair and loneliness.

And I like being all about that.


Teresa Bodwell said...

Writing is sort of like reading really slowly. I like that! It certainly works that way for me. I love to play stories in my head (like a movie), but they don't generally go very far unless I take the time to write them down. Then I can develop the characters, setting and plot to a greater depth. And I enjoy the story while I'm writing it. Then getting to share it with others is an added thrill!
I can imagine that trying to write something because I "should" would be boring. Wait--I don't have to imagine. I'm a lawyer, I get to do it all the time.

Shanna Swendson said...

That's one of my personal soapboxes, that so many people who are supposedly advocating reading seem to have forgotten the fun factor. They get too caught up in what you "should" be reading that they forget that it is a form of entertainment.

My favorite letters from readers are the ones where people talk about curling up in bed with my book and some Twinkies on a bad day, reading to forget their problems for a little while, reading just for fun. I've heard from people who read my book while on bed rest during a difficult pregnancy, in the waiting room while a loved one went through chemo, or even while going through chemo. That's why I write. If I can make someone happy for a moment or two, that's as good as any edifying, life-changing message.

JoAnn Ross said...

Okay, some of you may recognize this story from my note on my website, but my grandfather McLaughlin ( who kidnapped my grandmother, when her wealthier Cavanaugh family wouldn't permit them to marry) was a seanachie -- an Irish teller of tales.

My earliest memories are listening to the music of his lyrical brogue spinning grand stories of kings and castles, battles and banishments, magic and miracles.

Hardly a day goes by that I don't realize that by exploring my favorite themes of love, loyalty, family, and, of course, my favorite, redemption, I'm following in his footsteps. In all his tales, heroes and heroines ventured forth on perilous quests against seemingly impossible odds, slaying myriad dragons along the way. Tyrants were toppled, lovers united, the wicked were punished, justice prevailed in the end and the good always lived happily ever after. And isn’t that what romance novels are all about?

Tess said...

I'm with you on this - have no idea why people think reading about protagonists overcoming inner turmoil and external obstacles is such a bad thing - and unedifying. I was edified plenty at university, thanks!

Sally MacKenzie said...

When I read your post, Gail, for some reason I immediately thought of my youngest son's complaints about the books he had to read in grade school. (Alas, he is still not much of a reader.) He said they were all "girl" books. The one that sticks in my mind is The Secret Garden. I never got into that book either, but then I read "boy" books when I was in grade school. Adventure stores, science fiction.

I suffered through Moby Dick in college. That seemed to be a very "boy" book--at least I couldn't imagine many women that interested in whales. Not sure I could imagine many men so interested either...

Hmm... Is it just me, or do you think there are a few books that appeal mostly to men or mostly to women? We've already established that romance is wonderful for everyone!

Colleen Thompson said...

I completely relate to what you're saying about "girl" books and "guy" books. I've always had trouble relating to war, mob, and prison books/movies because of the dearth of relatable female characters. Though I loved the Hobbit & the Lord of the Rings books growing up, I always wanted a girl hobbit to be a part of the adventure, or maybe a human woman as a burglar or a warrior -- someone who *didn't* specialize in being a perfect, gorgeous object of adoration.

One nice thing about romance is it gives us likable heroes and heroines to root for. They aren't icons of perfection; they're human beings with both flaws and heroic qualities. And no matter how they struggle and they suffer, we just know they're going to figure things out after all.

Thank goodness. Don't you wish conflicts in the real world always ended on a happy sigh? Of course, that might just put us romance writers out of business.