I think most readers (and writers) fall into one of two camps. They are either plot people or character people. Plot people like things in a book to carry on the way they are supposed to. They know the steps of the Hero’s Journey by heart, even if they’ve never heard of it. Endings are very important to plot people – if the ending is not a satisfying one, the plot-oriented reader will not be satisfied. Character people want to empathize with the people of the book. They want the character to become as real to them as their best friends. It doesn’t matter so much to character people if the book has a satisfying ending. They are much more interested in how the character grows and changes throughout the book.
There’s a third category, of course, the people who read mostly for the setting. They don’t get mentioned often in writing books and the like. But they are out there. When these people open a book they want to imagine themselves walking dark alleys, watching spaceships fly above their heads, or getting sand stuck between their toes on a sandy beach.
I love realistic and captivating characters. And I love a good plot that pulls me along so fast I don’t want to put the book down. But what I really read for is to get lost in a world that is not my own. I’m definitely a setting person. I want to walk the dunes of Arrakis, drink the potion Alice picks up, sit around the campfire with McCrae and Call. I want to see the gray caps of Ambergris scurrying down the street.
There is nothing quite like the pleasure of entering into a new world I’ve never before experienced. The thrill of finding new places to visit will have me hunting down books for the rest of my life.
I guess my point is this – the next time you’re enjoying a lightning-fast plot or delving deep into a character’s psyche, take a mental step back and let yourself appreciate that unique world the author has created for you. Because really, it’s a world that only exists in your own mind, at the time that you are reading. That particular world, the words the author has chosen to present a picture and the way your individual brain interprets that picture, is something special, something that exists nowhere else.
Do you have a favorite book world? What made it so special to you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!