What Are You Reading, Then?

Rory, of A Guy Called Bloke blog, has asked a nice request about our reading and writing choices, and whether these have been altered by the pandemic. He asks,

1] How real do you need your reality reading or fiction reading to be?

2] Have you knowingly noticed over the last 9 months and since the arrival of Covid – 19 your writing style has altered?

3] Have you noticed any changes in the way that you personally blog – for instance your overall outlook and positivity reflects upon you differently now?

But I have written my thoughts out rather in the way of a stream of consciousness. It’s not meant to be a rant or a negative point of view, just another point of view.

Oh, I don’t know, I really can’t be doing with all these talking-thinking animals. At 17, my girlfriend at the time put me onto Watership Down. Those bloody awful rabbits! That did it for me. I think we should leave wild animals to be themselves and not inflict them with dreadful anthropomorphic traits.

I blame that Beatrix Potter woman. Though I have to say I haven’t read any of hers.

Wizards and witches and goblins and elves – and hobbits? (Sigh.) Can we not be truthful and admit they’re actually humans thinly disguised? As with the talking animals, no one wrote anything about stumpy pixie-eared trolls that wasn’t a reflection on our grown-up human faults through the veil and comfortable distance of disguised, sometimes mythical, other species. It’s dishonest if you think about it. At the very least, it’s an obscuration and a distraction.

I don’t believe I read for “escapism”. I don’t think I’m escaping from my own existence. I’m comfortable and quite at home with my existence; why would I escape into something potentially worse? I think I read to “experience”. Experiencism. (That’s not a proper word as little red dots have appeared beneath it as I type on. I don’t know how it isn’t a word; it should be.)

I want to try to experience other viewpoints, scenarios, events, cultures, emotions etc – as a human being would.

I’ll read anything that’s well-written and tells me something about the human condition. That’s the purpose of the novel. If I wish to know more about animals – or mythological creatures, or plants, or minerals, or cosmic or abstract things, I’ll go to non-fiction. I enjoy non-fiction. Non-fiction can make my head spin in a way that a novel can’t. There’s no suspension of disbelief. There’s skepticism, but that’s not the same thing. Non-fiction is awesome and scary. I read only yesterday that our sun moves through space at almost half a million miles per hour. If Tolkien wrote that, your instinct would tell you he’d made it up.

Until last year, I hadn’t made up a story since being required to do so for school. Ot surprised me that I found it fun to do. I think my style is influenced by the authors I read and I’m not aware it’s affected by current events, Covid included.

It’s still a new thing for me to write fiction. I couldn’t write anything big. It would be like running a marathon after trying a dozen or so 5ks. It would be like building an ark on the strength of putting up a couple of shelves.

Also it would require plot and I couldn’t bear that. I was pleased to hear Stephen King say he didn’t write for plot but character development. But I haven’t his skill. When writing small flash-fiction sketches, plot is unnecessary and I like that. Plot would bore me to distraction. I think I can recognise a plot driven short story: it has the tang of formula about it; it moves in an obvious and deliberate way, so as to become predictable. It also tends to be superficial; telling and not showing. Characters are infinitely more interesting than plot.

I may do more story writing in the new year. I’ve been reading tips on publishing one short story every day, or once a week, regardless of quality. Apparently, regularity brings improvement with it. You never know.

I think of myself as a resiliently pragmatic and optimistic person; generally, I remain positive. I hope this comes through in my blogging and commenting on others.


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