Saturday, February 27, 2010

I Don't Read Like I Used To

I told Cody a bit about Mistborn (by Brandon Sanderson) today, explaining the ideas of how the magic works and why I like it so much. It's unique; it's magic in a way I've never seen before and instantly wished I could be a character in this novel just so I could use this form of magic.

But then I started telling Cody about my broader opinions on the novel. Sanderson has the typical oddly matched band of heroes-with-flaws who are seeking to overthrow the evil tyrant. Like David Eddings often does, he has the people sit down in a room together near the beginning of the book and thoroughly discuss their plan of attack, literally making a list of the obstacles they're up against and their plans to overcome them.

What should be a rather boring meeting of talking heads more designed for the author to get to know what needs to happen in the story than necessary for the reader to know in advance of the action becomes an interesting development of characters and an introduction to the rules that govern this world. It's a plot ploy that requires a certain level of skill, one where the author can clearly see the difference between self-indulgence/self-exploration of the world and actual crucial elements to the story.

Which was about as far as I got in my discussion with Cody before I startled myself into silence with a thought: I don't read like I used to. I don't sit down and read a novel and just get lost in a world. I'm analyzing it as I go, watching technique and character development, paying attention to the tricky (for me) third act.

I said as much to Cody, and he laughed and agreed. I no longer talk of authors with the same rapture of a world that fully captures me and takes me away from this one. There's always a part of me that is reading a book as a writer, watching and looking and learning and critiquing.

Is this a bad thing? The me ten years ago or even five would probably say yes. That books should be enjoyed for the stories themselves. Not everything has to be a learning tool. But the me now disagrees. Watching authors' skills with the craft doesn't take away my enjoyment of a story. In fact, it does the opposite. Now I enjoy more than the story: I savor the layers of advice and examples of what to do and what not to do, appreciating the intricacies of the myriad techniques used even as I take delight in the tale.

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