Why would anyone read our books? Because they want to participate in the world we create. Readers will read our books with the passion of a collector if they feel an emotional connection to our characters, and they care about them. They care when the character runs into trouble and rejoices with them when they succeed. If we provide readers with vicarious excitement and tension, if they feel we are honest and true to those characters. They will continue to read.
Readers, including children and young adults want to enter a world where they can indulge in their feelings and participate in adventure. If our book invites them in, carefully brings them along with us in the story and then encourages them to feel, they will read our books. The story is important, even if only for a short time, to the one who writes it or reads it. It can be a way of communicating excitement and the optimistic belief that the world is a remarkable and knowable place. Or it can be a way of commiserating with others about the difficulties and sorrows of life.
Stories also offer an illusion of control, as if the world can be controlled by the way we interpret it. Readers feel that, while they are in the imaginary world of the story, they can control that world. Most writers offer stories that have beginnings, middles and ends, describing life as neatly compacted and logical, giving readers a sense of order. Some stories do this and for some readers, that’s irresistible.
We want to write a book that will delight readers for years. We want our book to be the best we can produce, written in a style that is uniquely ours, perhaps using ideas that have never been written about or in a format that has never been tried. Writing is about creating. Readers delve into our book so they can participate in that creation.
There is, likely, a mixture of many motivations in most writers and most readers. They are complex and simple, obvious and deep. Some writers and readers are aware of what they feel and why they feel as they do. Others are aware only of their feelings after they have written their stories or read a profound tale. We may not always be sure of our reasons for writing, but we will likely be convinced of our undeniable need to write. We put out books out there and then hope that readers will jump into our world. And, of course, we are all compulsive readers.
It’s amazing, really, that psychiatry has not diagnosed writing and reading as an altered state of consciousness, one where people meet in the world of their shared imaginations.