Remember in school you had to learn the three reasons for reading: to inform, to entertain and to persuade? When the teacher explained those three concepts, you were likely then given short readings and asked to identify which of the three purposes the author was employing. And heaven help you if a passage was a humorous explanation of how the popularity of ice cream justifies a national holiday.
The lines continue to blur into our adult reading lives. A novel can be based on actual events (Take a pick from any of the WWII fictions); ornithological essays unfold with the tight drama of short stories (See Noah Strycker's delightful The Thing with Feathers); and the driest graph contains a bias to drive users to adopt a certain viewpoint (Remember National Geographic’s infamous and debunked ‘hockey stick’ graph used to justify global warming?).
I dare say that if Heartwarming readers were asked to slot themselves into one of the three categories, the majority would choose to be entertained. Sure, you want to escape laundry and bills and the clamor of family to sink into a time and place where happy endings are guaranteed.
But that doesn’t quite tell the whole story, does it? For me, the best part of the book runs from where I’ve got the lay of the land and met the main people, and am now ready to let them take him with them wherever they have to go, to right up until the last few pages when they’ve conquered the enemies without and within, and stand united together. It’s not the beginning or the ending I want to read about but all the messy, complicated, hilarious, testy, energized chaos in between. Worry me, frighten me, excite me—amaze, befuddle, bemuse, bewonder (yes, that’s a word), shame, anger—me.
Make me feel. Emoji me. Did you know that emotion (e + motion) comes from the Latin out + move. Reading for an emotional experience is surrendering to the human drive (bad pun intended) to be moved out from one state to another, zipping from one emotional station to another until we gently pull into our final destination in the final pages.
Notice that the only emotion a reader will not permit is boredom. All kinds of genres are out there to invoke a particular set of emotions: horror for fear and loathing; mystery for wonder, excitement and justice; romance for love and hope; westerns again for a sense of justice and freedom; science fiction for speculation. Not surprisingly, nothing for boredom.
Boredom is death, inertia, stasis, nothingness. I work in the school system where silent reading is a daily event. The engaged readers are easy to spot; their bodies are still, gazes fixed to the page; they don’t seem to register surrounding noises. The bored readers squirm, switch out books every minute or so, become entranced by the elastic unravelling from their sock. A bored young reader grows into a non-reading adult. Not good.
Speaking of which...I have a new release out next week, Coming Home to You. A fake romance turns into genuine love when a self-made guy looking for Ms. Kinda Right meets up with a bookish professor looking out for her eccentric, beloved godmother.
Come visit me at M. K. Stelmack or on FaceBook