Emotional Investment

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Do you like sequels? Do you like reading/watching something that is formulaic or predictable?

It’s okay, we all do. I’m of the opinion that it’s a form of intellectual snobbery to insist that people must only consume stories that challenge them emotionally. Just because something is hard to read or makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it’s good or good for you. (It also doesn’t mean it’s bad.)

The reason we love things like sequels and series is the emotional investment. That the energy (mental or emotional) that it takes for someone to read or watch something. It’s the reason that some of us find it easier to watch 6 episodes of a TV show than 1 new movie.

When starting something new as a reader or watcher, you need to invest energy into the characters, understanding how they interact, figuring out the setting, understanding the plot, and trying to figure out how it all goes together.

With a sequel or formula, you already know the characters and the setting which frees you to relax and enjoy the other aspects.

As a writer, you need to think about the amount of energy people will be willing to spend. Having lots of characters and complex settings mean more energy for a reader to get into the book. If the characters die a lot, especially POV, or the complex setting keeps shifting then readers might feel their energy was wasted and not want to continue.

The same goes with playing around with tropes and genres. You have to set up how your book and setting are different early enough that people won’t feel cheated.

Of course everyone’s Emotional Investment quotas are different, as is their cost. Some people are energized by multiple characters where half die in the second book. Some people don’t invest that much in characters while others don’t care about setting. Everyone’s different.

It’s important to keep it in mind but it’s impossible to tailor to everyone. (Just like everything in writing.)

So next time you find yourself exhausted and wanting to re-read a book or just watch a random episode of a police procedural, remind yourself that it’s okay.

What books do you find draining but worth it? Mine are The Malazan series by Stephen Erikson. They are so much work, but a lot of fun. I usually have give myself a big pep talk before starting.

Latter Days,

Éric

Purging Books

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I LOVE books. The smell, the feel, the reading… If you’ve been to our house (Books End) you know we have an impressive library. You might be surprised to hear that every couple of years we go through it and purge our books.

Check out Rock Paper Cynic

As I get older and less wise, I’ve come to know my tastes a little better and there are books that I have no interest in reading. Books that I thought I would love but now just make me go, “do I have to?”. I can make four categories that I have no interest in reading anymore.

Classics

I’m not talking the old classics. I have a special place in my heart for Beowulf, The Three Musketeers, and other classical literature. (Although I have an illogical hate of epistolary style books.)

No I’m talking about the classics of genre that people will be shocked you haven’t read. Things that are classics because we grew up with them not because they are the greatest. Not that I judge anyone for loving these, but I’m not interested in another 7-13 book epic fantasy about a farmboy.

Power Triangles

These are often in romance, adventure, horror, or urban fantasy. There’s a main character and two others that are trying to control them. This can be villains, lovers, or sometimes both. It’s filled with cringe and drives me up the wall.

That means it takes a lot for me to read a vampire book and I shudder at the description of most werewolf books. Again they aren’t bad books, I just don’t have the mental energy.

Violent Horror

I like horror, and I like Stephen King, but there are some that I just can’t handle. Overly violent and crude horror makes my stomach turn and makes me want to stop reading. These can be fantastic literature that challenge your way of thinking but I don’t want to read it. I’ll probably never re-read A Clockwork Orange.

Pretentious Writing

Every once in a while someone tries to elevate a genre and writes about a vampire, or modern wizard, but with prose that’s so pretentious is passes purple and hits ultraviolet. If the first page is so long winded that I zone out… It’s not for me.

There can be beauty in this, but it has to be done in service to the writing not the authors ego.


So these books and those that I never plan on rereading are the ones we’re getting rid of. There’s only a couple dozen, which is nothing compared to the couple thousand we still have.

So what are you sick of reading?

Éric