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The Evening Muse 6 | The Need for Speed & Selectiveness

Expedience – I read a lot. Of course that goes without saying. Just the other day I heard Stephen King say he is an omnivorous reader, and I agreed I am the same. Voracious, in fact. However – and because of this – I need to do a lot of using the speed-reading technique (as well as bypassing the boring parts in larger works). In the past as a short story editor I’d speed read a lot of short stories out of necessity. Nowadays, if I speed-read a story it is because to my tastes it’s wasting time getting to the compelling part. If I speed-read a novel, it’s not just because I tend to check out so many of them from the library and need to boogie through them swiftly, but it may also likely be because I am not quite enamored with the prose style, or it has a weak or non-existent plot, or worse yet, a plot that is simply not compelling. A lot of times novels are not paced as well as they should be. This is often a problem of structure, but unfortunately it’s sometimes the problem of the author’s narrative intent and approach.

Pickiness – Admittedly I am a particular kind of reader these days. I do not need to be wowed by a writer’s diction, quirky prose or clever turns of phrase. All I need is compelling stories piloted by likable, sometimes charming and charismatic yet always compelling characters. Purposeful dialogue. Though I do like to see lots of dialogue, I am not a fan of aimless, pointless chatter. Minimal prose. Though I don’t mind thorough description and (pertinent) details, I prefer narrative that doesn’t meander and rather gets on with it, preferably using a ticking clock. That tends to be the bigger draw for me, which is probably why I prefer crime and suspense thrillers (and the occasional horror tome, though like sci-fi and fantasy I prefer it on the big and small screens). I like immediacy and immersion. If the story, especially a novel, takes its sweet time getting to the rising action or the crucial character development then I’m more than likely to become impatient, uninterested and will look for the exit.

I also want to be quite intimate with the protagonist. I want to be immersed in their psyche, which is why I prefer the subjective third-person point of view. It’s my favorite to write from as well.

I wish I was a more patient reader, maybe even a one-track-minded reader like my wife is. She can’t read multiple books at a time, whereas I have to for the aforementioned impatience and other reasons. It may also stem from decades of reading multiple comic book series – it conditions you for a wide array of episodic but diverse reading scheme. And yes, the correlation between the scattered focus in my reading and the same in my writing is not lost on me.