I recently read an article on BookRiot about how we often love books even though we have forgotten everything about them. While I was sharing the post on Facebook I realized that I’m even worse than the author of the article, because at least it takes her years to forget things. You give me a few days and I may forget the entire book! In fact, I’ve forgotten books while still reading them! (Oh, Crooked Heart… you had so much potential)
This made me really consider my own reading style. It seems that when I’m looking at the page of a book, I’m not really reading every word. I don’t lavishing attention on each phrase like some people seem to. This is probably why I prefer books with more action and dialogue over those with long descriptions. I see the word, process it’s meaning, and move on to the next one without spending too much time in contemplation. Unfortunately, this also means that I rarely remember the names of characters or places. I can describe a character’s personality, but I often only have a vague idea of what their name actually is. It’s just another word to me… another descriptor that helps me move through the book.
It makes me feel a little sad for all the authors who struggle so mightily to name their characters. It’s unlikely that I will care if your male lead is called Ethan or Humphrey, as long as it makes sense to the story and isn’t so ridiculous that I can’t help but pay attention to it. Your “unique” character name needs to have a personality attached to it that is worth remembering.
Overly descriptive settings are equally as lost on me. I’ll remember the idea of a city, but asking me to recall which one is a lost cause. I recently had someone comment on a review asking if I had “actually read the book” because I made the mistake of saying a character came from New York when in fact it was Detroit. Both cities were in the book, I just chose the wrong one when I wrote my review. The setting was less important to me than what was happening to the characters. Not knowing which city they were from took nothing away from the actual story for me, but that reader was obviously upset that I had it wrong.
So, what’s your reading style? Do you remember names and places? Do the details make it a better story for you?