I love my moments of idle speculation, and I suspect you do too. Whether you want to call it daydreaming or the more writerly ‘research,’ it's important for all of us to have a few moments in time to just let the brain gently disengage, slip a gear, and freewheel to whatever destination you choose. For some reason mine seems to do this most when I'm peeling potatoes, I don't know why, but there you go.
So there I was on Sunday, just me and the King Edwards, frowning gently in pursuit of the perfect peel, when a tangent arrived and I was off. Moments later and I had arrived at a fully formed speculation, which went something like this:
I started off thinking about the characters in my next book and what I wanted them to say (whether they're actually going to listen is another question entirely), but also what message I wanted them to bring to the book, what emotions they could offer - you know a bit like what your guests will bring to a party; Mr A will bring a massive dose of ego and a sizeable case of halitosis, Miss B will bring her adorable self and everyone will love her, Mrs C will mother everyone, spend most of the time in the kitchen, but be wise and caring, Mr Life of the Party will just bring himself, and Mr D will bring his opinion whether you like it or not. Mrs E, his wife will bring a prize for long suffering but basically good egg, and Mr F, well just at him, phwoar, did he really need to wear quite so many clothes? So, having established a few thoughts about my actual characters and their part in the plot I'm constructing, I slid sideways into the themes and main emotions that I wanted to include, and this is where it began to get really interesting…
You see, we all see things differently, we all feel things differently. I've touched on the issue of perspective in a previous blog, but it does fascinate me how people can face the same situation but react completely differently. So is the same for the books we read? What one person sees as a stonkingly good thriller might to another seem offensive or brutal perhaps. So why do we feel this way? Personally I can think of nothing worse than strapping myself to a hunk of metal to be catapulted upside down along a track at 80mph, but to the next man the need for this kind of adrenalin rush is close to an addiction. I've read books that have made my stomach drop away in shock and had my heart racing. I have really enjoyed these books at the time, and yet they are not my usual genre of choice, so why is that?
Take a moment to think about the type of books that you usually read, and why they might appeal to you … My children find it hysterically funny that I cry reading books, in fact it's not just books, it's films, TV and even adverts. I do cry at sad things, but actually what has me blubbing away is usually a random act of kindness, someone being nice or doing something nice, it gets to me far more than a tragedy ever does, and when I really connect with a book it's usually because of this.
So what makes a person like mysteries? thrillers? fantasy? romance? It can't be just generalised by gender, there are far too many female thriller writers and readers for example to overgeneralise and say these are ‘for men’. Likewise whilst romantic books are more often associated with a female readership, a large number of books from other genres include romantic aspects to them, crime novels, or fantasy for example, so these aspects are also appealing to a wider range of readers.
So if we read certain types of books because of our own innate characteristics, are we programmed if you like to read these books because it's in our genetic make up, and therefore no matter how well written a book, how good the plot, if it's not the one for you, nothing will ever make it so.
Can we, or should we, try to extend the range of our appeal, to snaffle extra readers by reaching out to them deliberately from across the void with a bit of this and a bit of that, or by doing so do we dilute our original purpose.
I say live and let live. Let's embrace our reader’s differences and accept them, it's what makes us, the human race, so fascinating, and perhaps after all there really is a book out there for everyone … Or should I say a person out there for every book?