Saturday, June 25, 2016

Involvement in Reading and Emotion

Sometimes when reading I find myself laughing out loud, not often, not as often as I've suddenly felt tears dampening my cheeks, or felt my stomach tied in knows from overwhelming tension, or my mind reeling in curiosity. When it happens, I know the story was well worth the read.

I love reading a good story, but each 'good' story reaches me on a different level. Sometimes it's because I immediately identify with a character or the character's untenable situation. Sometimes it's because the storyline makes me think, or whet's my curiosity, or because the story takes me somewhere in time or space I've never been. The major link tying these together is the emotional one, which often involves bonding with a character. With the characters who catch my mind, I laugh, cry, feel their pain, their doubts, their regrets, and breath with deep satisfaction at their triumphs. These are the stories I remember best because of that emotional identification.

I don't mean to imply that I want only what would be classified as a morally impeccable character. The main characters I like can begin as troubled or injured people, but their road to redemption must be lined with believable problems and setbacks. There are a few situations where I have trouble suspending my disbelief to get into the story.

I'm reading a book right now where the hero leaves me ambivalent. Yes, there is a reason for his immoral behavior: survival in the mean streets of one of America's cities. And yes, he grew up with a horribly abusive parent. He has finally caused the death of someone whom he considered a friend and thinks his own death is near until the unobtainable woman he loves arrives.

Sorry, I'm having a real hard time bonding with this character or the heroine who will forgive him anything. While I know he is going to try and redeem himself for this woman, I don't buy it. Not yet, at least. Maybe the author will surprise me.

Stories about  guys or gals in tough times can be very emotional; however, I also believe continual criminal or cruel behavior changes the tenor of a mind making it impossible to change without colossal cost of some kind. Nor can I identify with a character who is just too good to be true; I don't believe them. I guess what I'm saying is the more human the character in respects to how I view people, the more real they feel, the more emotionally involved I become in their story. Without that, for me, there is no reason to read.

So I know the bounds of my emotional relationship with characters, and while I can make that tie and enjoy it, it does have its limits.

Visit the following authors and read their opinions on the topic!

Skye Taylor
Anne Stenhouse 
Marci Baun 
Heather Haven
Victoria Chatham
Dr. Bob Rich
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Rachael Kosinski
Connie Vines 
Margaret Fieland


  1. Hi Rhobin, oh I do agree - how can you keep forgiving the person who doesn't change? I also love a book with those laugh out loud moments. It's one of the reasons I look to Regency because the repartee sparkles. anne Stenhouse

  2. You are right, Rhobin. If you can't identify with the protagonist, there is not much point reading, and that person having the emotions you would feel in the situation is an essential part of that. You would not act toward that hero the way the girl in the story does -- so the author lost you.

  3. I agree, bonding with the character(s) is what makes the book worth reading. I critiqued a book for another author once and while there was lots of dark stuff going on that should have made me anxious or sad or grief stricken, I was none of these because she never drew me into the character's feelings, emotions, thoughts and reactions except for the surface reactions to actions. There was no character growth either which for me made the book a real drudge to get through. If I'd been reading simply for pleasure, I wouldn't have read past the second or third chapter.

  4. I probably should have added that my dog thinks I'm a bit strange when I start laughing and nothing is going on.

  5. I too love a book with those laugh out loud moments. Sometimes I forget there is a light side to emotion also.

  6. Agree agree agree, Robin. I had to put down a book recently because I just didn't feel anything for the main heroine at all. She was just...blagh. Not pitiable, uninteresting, not particularly kind but without any tendencies towards any sort of darkness, either. I wasn't sure why she was piloting the story at all. And when a book actually makes me laugh audibly, I know it's a winner! A collection of short Sherlock Holmes pastiches actually made me giggle a handful of times, which was surprising because it's Sherlock Holmes. It's really quite quippy, though. :)