What We Read For

As I was reading the other day, I tried to think about what was driving me to keep reading—why was I interested? What was I looking forward to reaching in the story?

I realized that what drives a story to be read (and, I would imagine, to be written) is the desire to see something—looking forward towards an event expected in the story (this is not always a positive event, as we’ll see)—we want the resolution of a question.

Here are a few vague possibilities I thought of:

  • A character’s confession to another (particularly if we expect the outcome of that confession to be dramatic or satisfying)
  • The discovery of a secret (by the character or the reader; the latter especially in the case where the character already knows, the former in the case where the reader knows and expects the character to have a certain reaction)
  • The defeat of a villain (especially when the villain is particularly heinous)
  • A couple getting together
  • A character threatened/hurt and protected/comforted
  • For a writer, it may be something we wish to write out of an appreciation for its beauty, emotion, theme, descriptions/experience, etc.

If you can find the thing you look forward to writing, and/or something you think the reader would look forward to reading, you may unlock the key to the classic “page-turner.”


About J. Sevick

Just write.
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2 Responses to What We Read For

  1. I think it’s different for everyone. I read mostly for prose actually. Something about poetic prose makes me incredibly happy. I can’t help it :$

    Margaret Atwood wrote a really cool story illustrating that all stories essentially have similar endings and beginnings, but it was what happened in the middle that made a good story. Her stories are enjoyable throughout.

    For my own writing though, I want it to be entertaining. I think literature does have a bad reputation for being boring. Although I like slower paced, character driven stories. If I connect with a character, I’m a lot more engaged in the story. Literature relies on microtension more than genre fiction, which makes better use of macrotension. This is why some books are interesting even though nothing is really happening, lol.

    • J. Sevick says:

      If that’s the Margaret Atwood story that ends every time with something like “John and Mary die,” then I’ve read it! Took a class on her in college. 🙂

      I think the point about microtension in character-driven stories is really interesting… I can’t say I’d ever thought of it that way. And I definitely agree that every reader reads for something different–this was just something I noticed in myself as I was reading.

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