Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tell Me a Story

I've said this before about miniseries and television shows available on DVD, and about thick novels: I like sinking into a long, intriguing, well-told story. I like not having to wait for weeks to watch a TV show storyline play out; I can just pop in the next DVD, hit "play", and keep going. The same goes for miniseries. Novels, especially those in a series, are a similar story (forgive the wordplay).

If the characters, writing, and premise of a series grabs me, I will read every book. For example, I own two diverse mystery series: one featuring a male protagonist, Inspector Ian Rutledge, a veteran of the First World War, and another series set at fictional Hawkenlye Abbey and featuring a set of protagonists, a monastery abbess and a French-English knight returned from the Crusades. I have read, reread, and re-reread every one of those books. I like having them available on the shelf. I dislike waiting for the next in the series to be published.

I've worn a "halo" around the center of my Lord of the Rings DVDs, they've been played so many times. The four paperback books (The Hobbit and The Lord of Rings) have all been well read, and no longer fit sleekly into their communal slipcase. The LOTR hardcover set still looks good, but that's only because the paperbacks exist.

Having viewed most of my movies several times, I do not always sit still to watch. I stand, I move around, I putter in the kitchen or sweep the floor, play a game of Scrabble against myself, fold laundry, work on my various writing projects, exercise in front of the television. However, there are always parts of the story that will grab my undivided attention, and I will stop whatever I'm doing and watch. The same with books: I may skip a page or two in familiar books, parts that after the first two or three readings fail to interest me, and I read the good parts (reminiscent of The Princess Bride, subtitled by author William Goldman as the 'good parts' version), the places where characters are in conflict, stress, change, action--the places where something happens.

And yet--and yet--there are moments of visual or written poetry that will get me every time: the sweeping cinematography and beautiful music that accompany the lighting of the beacons in The Return of the King, or the long opening paragraphs of If I Were King by Justin Huntly McCarthy.

Like most of the children to whom I read, I am an impatient and restless fan. Grab my attention with a well-crafted tale, however, and I'll sit still as long as it takes you to tell it.


Anonymous said...

Yep, been there, done that! I am the world's great speed reader--as a child, I'd skip whole paragraphs, even nearly a chapter, if I thought it would slow me down. Get to the good stuff!
But a lot of movies require attention to detail--I'll start a task while watching them and find myself sitting, hours later, entranced, with nothing done!


I read an article this morning about how to move characters around in a story: zip them to a place and just starting writing the action and/or dialogue, or describe the journey they took to get there.

Sometimes, the journey IS the story; sometimes, it's just plain boring, and those are the parts of books I'll skip when I'm reading. The same goes when there are long passages describing clothing details--unless those somehow have an active part of the story.