Thursday, 26 February 2015

What Are You Looking For?

There are loads of things that we as readers look for in a book. Some of us love mystery, others comedy, others chicklit, and fantasy and... well the list is endless. Based on the obviousness of the genre of a book we will buy a book. But what about beyond that. I read a lot of fantasy, I get loads of it on my review blog. Most people who despise this is because of the magic and worlds and so on and so forth. But neither of those things are the core of why I like them. Yes they are important, but they aren't the bases for why fantasy novels make top list.

I love mystery novels and suspense. That edge of the seat state anxiousness of not knowing what might happen to your hero.  And in the case of not knowing who the villain is, trying to figure out with the clues given. When I do know who the villain is, i enjoy the chase of the hero desperately trying to catch up without dying before catching up with evil. I revel in the unknown darkness and heightened plains that these books live in.

I also love coming of age stories and self discovery stories. I love character development. Like really love it. These stories always have the character go through a series of events that brings them to a new level of self actualization. They can end up better, worse, dark or happy, good or just plain evil but i enjoy reading how people respond to the stimuli around them and how they come out of it. If a character pretty much reacts the same without any growth I 'm just not interested. on the flip side if they do have battles internally but yet some how manage to force themselves to do the right thing that's different. Somehow the character still changes their way of thinking as the story progresses hence their approach grows and their opinions may change even if they do stay on task. There just should be growth. One dimensional is so blah.

Comedies. Say what. I love this stuff. Especially chick lit. Sexual humor is the best.  I think the plots are usually way to over-dramatized sometimes. Just some unnecessary shit just put in there to reach some predetermined drama quota. But beyond that, the comedic timing is just great. The awkwardness of how people interact with eachother daily is very prevalent and it is just funny in a human realistic kind of way. But comedies in general in novel form are fun and tend to make me laugh even harder than watching them on film. All forms of funny especially dark humor, that stuff you know you should not be laughing at, that stuff is also my fave. And witty batter shrouded with sexual innuendo, that's just delicious. Oh hell humor wins across the board.

Romance. nothing like a good love interest. It's the easiest thing to use as a sub plot and seems to work infinitely better on the side. It's fun when flirtatious bits just kind of ooze lightly behind the main plot. Keeps them a little bit more human. And it gives you something else to root for other than the hero actually staying alive or in not so serious books just coming out on top of the crazy antics of the other characters.

Erotica. Well there's sex. Is there anything else to say? Okay I'll admit erotica books are like guilty pleasures. The plots are usually very uninspiring, most times anyway. But the steamy, disgusting, animalisitc, sensual and just down right enjoyable sex scenes make up for that. Sometimes you just want to read a trashy novel and feel absolutely good about it. And erotica always seems to make me laugh too. Dunno what is up with this combo of humor and sex but I'm not complaining at all.

Tragedy. Yeah. Happy endings are great but overdone. I like to know before I even turn my first page that bad things are going to happen. I live in the real world. My life isn't wrapped up in a pretty little box. Some days are kill the world days, some days are suicidal days and other days I'm like being me is so awesome. Yes it's fiction, but I read it to escape which means on a certain level the world I"m escaping to has to feel like I can live in it. Hence no matter what genre some of the imperfections of the real world need to be in there. In the real world heroes don't always win and good people die. Do I care if they all live. Not really. But on the flip side I shouldn't be sure during the whole read that the main characters are definitely going to come out on top of the situation. There should be a sense of 'yeah, life isn't perfect', to keep me grounded in the make-believe pages of the story.

I could go on forever there are loads of things I love about books and that's why I put fantasy at the top of the list. Like suspense... Well there is always something lurking in a fantasy novel that the hero has to figure out, or destroy or escape from. Mystery... again there's always something unknown that needs to be found or discovered, something evil that the details are kind of grey about or secret places that hold the key to ultimate power, or people assumed dead but they are actually holding the pieces to save the world. Mystery out the ass in fantasy. World building... I live in the real world (scifi makes it into this world building category too). There are Indians, and Brazilians, and English, and Canadians, and Americans and Spanish, Germans, Hungarians, Asians... shit the list is endless. If you like reading books based in the real world that play off the divers cultures of humanity and how they mingle, fantasy is the place where this can be duplicated.

Most human cultures have their own folklore, songs, tales, religious views and a host of other things unique to them. This things didn't just happen over night. They take time to build and be distinct enough that when you see/hear someone from even the next state you can tell they are not from your state. So it gives people that are into this type of diversity and uniqueness of people in their books, to see it built up. Most fantasy writers have to create their songs, their own prayers, their own gods/religions, laws for the citizens, the list is endless it's a way to look into the mind of someone and see just how immensely creative and wonderful the world we do live in on earth is via the creation of another world.

Tragedy, for those people who don't like neat little happy boxes that avoid the dark parts of life. Fantasy tends to never do that. Nothing is out of bounds, death, relationships, rape, abandonment, revenge, rage if a human can feel it it's likely to fit somewhere in the pages. Even the darker parts of love, and family don't get washed over, whether an adult or teen book. the relationships between the characters is usually very gritty so you become concerned that they may not make it and evil just might win--it can happen especially in a series. The endings are never completely happy. Sometimes the hero must die to win, sometimes you're favorite side characters die in the final pages. Sometimes the one relationship that finally pays of in the end ends tragically or ultimately just cant work because of the way the book ends. Just so many ways for evil to be defeated and still not have pretty, clean endings.

Humor. just bucket-loads of that everyday stuff. Since there is usually more than one main, you get those occasional pub scenes. You get crazy banter. Traveling from one place to the next with the same people for days. You amuse yourself with tales and anecdotes of your life. Most are usually funny embarrassing stuff. Just like in real life. You cant be serious all the time. The more time you spend stuck with the same people something really stupid like a woman hunting a dear, her horse making a sharp turn and she flies of the saddle just missing a tree mid air, plummets into mud and now has to go explain to her fellow travelers how she is supposed to be the best hunter in the group but is covered in mud and horseless. There's also the fun flirtatious banter. Sometimes it pays of and other times it's just to make you smile. Basically the human interaction is very grounded in the randomness of how most people interact instead of that heightened stuff you know will never happen in real life.

Sex. Oh yeah. No shortage of that. It happens. and it's never the focus of the story. It's more like, yes! it's about time all this annoying flirting paid off. And it's not the fluffy sex in chick lit. It's the more gritty stuff. Again it's grounded in something that's believable. It progresses in a way you could see happening in the world you live in, whether it be a one night stand, an actual couple, rape, whatever it doesn't shy away from the good things about sex or the bad things about sex. Nothing really feels out of place like 'yeah that would never happen'.

Journey. There is always something going on with a lead character or characters discovering themselves. They are either stronger than they are or weaker. They come from a distant race and need to step up to their natural abilities. They just don't know who they are and the characters around them are helping them grow into the person they need to be to do whatever the plot needs them to do. The lead is actually the villain and we are following their growth into evil. Maybe they know nothing of the world they live in are forced to leave home because it burned or something and through traveling the realm they become a new man or woman. Their characters are never flat. Which you can get a lot in other books. Where the plot tends to always take first place. I prefer balance. Where everything I've talked about so far somehow gets equal footing regardless of if it gets equal page time.

And I love characters. That's my main focus in all books. Does the character surprise me either good or bad. Or do they do what I expect them to do in every situation. In real life people can be predictable. But not always. You never know when some new thing may alter the way a person reacts or thinks. Sometimes slightly but other times it can drastically change them. People who don't learn anything bug me in books. How can all these things be happening directly to you and you're still the same person you were on the first page. Some traits should define the character yes. But to be completely unbending the entire book is like why bother having all these things happen if they are never going to take a step back and think about whats going on and how their view of the world is perhaps a bit askew. Or maybe who they thought they are they are not and they may not like who they really are, maybe they are part of the bad team and things happen that make them question their evil ways or even a good guy joining the dark side. Or just good old fashioned self discovery either through their own experiences or the things they find out about others. Fantasy almost always has intense character development. It's never likely the heroes or the villains, or the sub-characters are flat and go nowhere. Another reason why I read them.

So what are you looking for? I notice that when it comes to music, and movies, and books people look for the genre all the time. I only read this and that, I don't read this and that. I'm completely disinterested in genre reasoning. I don't read fantasy because it's magic and in fantastical worlds and settings. I read it because I love mystery, tragedy, good character development, sex, humor, journey, different cultures,, action and fight scenes, epic wars, music and folklore, animals(there's always knew animals and familiar ones throughout fantasy novels) love interest, (of the none fluff this could never happen variety) strong character interaction, a clearly defined plot and heightened sense of urgency(if things don't get done on time shit could get ugly fast) and all sorts of other things. That's why I pick up any book. Fantasy just happens to fill my need for all these things in the same book. It's hard to do it in other novels because they are genre specific. Somethings you just can't do. Even in scifi. It would seem out of place. But in fantasy you can very deftly merge them all together in really intricate plots keeping up the interest in the characters lives as well as whatever ultimate goal is at hand. That's why I read it, the magic stuff is just coincidence.

So again what are you looking for. In my opinion if we focused more on what we actually like in the books we like to read a lot, take that out and focus more on that, and not the genre, we might realise other books hold those exact same qualities and it will help us as readers to broaden our reading horizons. I read books in genres I don't like all the time and enjoy them because they have the things I like to find in a book in them. This would of course eliminate the genre deletions we do. I don't read comedy, I don't read horror(didn't mentions this but... yeah. who doesn't like dark grey mysterious tales. I sure do.) Don't read fantasy, don't read action/adventure. If we as readers looked for the things we enjoyed reading first, and not the genre of book we find them in we would, again, notice that a lot of the things we like float around in books we would never usually pick up.

I apply this theory to almost everything. If I don't do something it's because I find the plot direction usually goes in ways I don't like and not the genre of movie or book. The types of things I dislike are largely plot and character related and I will despise them in any genre. If I find a certain genre does this a lot, the characters always go here, the plot always does this, the hero always does that the villains are always the same. blah blah blah. Then that would make me single something out, but not entirely. I'll still pick up one every now and then because there's more than likely some things I love about that genre and I'm hoping the stereotypes may not be in this one. I just don't want to miss anything. Kind of like how I love metal music but not the vocals, if your lyrics are badass I want to be able to hear them without the booklet. On the same token I like gospel music but I refuse to listen to people who squall. Basically the same sound as the metal vocals. Two completely different styles of music. Both I love musically but the vocals are what I pinpoint out. If I could take metal bands and put a normal rock vocal over them... Win. Same with gospel. Get rid of the squawkers and put the normal gospel singers over the same gospel music... Win. That may not be a good example but it's just how I see it. What you are looking for should go beyond the genre. As a musician I can appreciate classical, metal, gospel, rock, jazz, blues, country Celtic, the list is endless, i like anything that sounds like real music, but I'm also a writer so I need clear vocals and lyrics that make me feel what you are singing. With that criteria, i find my favorite songs pop up in the weirdest of genres across the board.

So yeah. I'm more of a content kind of person. This allows me to find the things that really get me excited about reading and music, and movies, in any genre and lets me make a list of criteria I judge by that I can use for any genre. And this is what I tell people when I defend fantasy. That all those things you love in other books are in here. Look for what you enjoy, the content, and seek that out when you read and not focus so much on the package. That makes it too difficult to find what you want if you are only looking for it in one place. Look for it everywhere then you'll have a book collection that's all over the place. Everyone will always have their favorite genre. This is normal, but with all the different styles out there, find what you love and know that it is most definitely hidden in books outside of your preferred genre.

Well not much more ways I can say it. I pretty much love too many styles of writing to believe I have to settle for only one way to receive it. If suspense is on the menu i don't care if it's chicklit, a murder mystery, horror, or erotica, I'm down for the cause. So again i ask what are you looking for. And more importantly are you ready to look for the same things, but in a new package.

2 comments:

  1. Sounds like you are well read and like most stuff then? :) thats great I wish I was as broad minded as you.

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    1. I try. Reading new things each year. I'm loving this review blog stuff. Its fun. Lots of books I wouldn't pick up are easier to find when they just flood my email ☺

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