Over the weekend, I thought about what I did and didn’t read, what I skipped over and what I read word for word as if it was the first time I’d ever read it, even though I knew exactly what was about to happen. And the interesting thing about what I re-read?
It wasn’t ever the plot.
And that’s not saying something bad about plots. I think I have the kind of mind where I get the plot quickly, and I always remember it. I don’t need to re-read that part.
What I do want to re-read is the emotional connections, the interactions between the main characters. I want to visit with those characters again. They’ve become like old friends, and I can re-live the thrills and trials of their emotional journey as if they were over at my place with a cup of coffee, spilling the beans.
It’s probably why I can watch LOVE ACTUALLY as many times as it comes on TV, or SERENITY, too, for that matter. Because the one is full of interesting emotional connections, and the other is action-packed but with a lot of emotion in there, too, and the story sticks close to the main characters the whole way through, twining plot with emotion so closely, its impossible to separate it.
With all this in mind, I was listening to the radio to a really complex song today, and then straight after a really simple one was played, and they both appealed. The simple one because it was a little funny, and a lot emotional, and the complex one because although it was darker, and more dramatic, it was also interesting, with a number of different layers and two distinct points of view. The dance music with the inane lyrics and the synthesized beat that came after that? That I skipped.
One of Elmore Leonard’s famous tips on writing is:
Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
Even before I read that I was trying to do it. To erase myself from the story, so only the story is left. And I know the authors who succeed at doing it are the ones whose books I sink into as a reader, without noticing any of the craft aspects of the book. It is annoying not to be able to read a book without noticing POV, plot devices or author intrusion, and a rare and wonderful thing to find a book where the story is so compelling, there are no bits I want to skip.
So what are the bits you like to skip in books / movies / music, and which keep you glued to the page?