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When you're really, REALLY into a book

I’ve been trying to figure out which is worse – being pulled away by real life when I’m hooked on a story that I’m in the process of reading, or being pulled away from one I’m writing.

My new work-in-progress has reached a particularly fun point – not only is it climactic plot-wise, but two of the characters are going through emotional hell. I want to be 100% in their world. Instead, my day job has been extra-intense (long into the evenings and hitting the weekend as well), plus we’re doing some home improvement that has gone terribly wrong. Needless to say, it’s hard to grab quality time with the manuscript.

I don’t want to lose touch with the story, so my brain maintains a link at all time – sometimes it’s just a life-support-type beeping, and sometimes I can actually feel brain cells working on it even in the midst of non-book chaos.

Of course, the same thing happens when you’re reading someone else’s book – assuming the story and the prose are resonating with you and you’re utterly immersed in them. You reach a pivotal stage, where worlds are colliding, people are evolving, lives hang in the balance – and company rings your doorbell. Company you’ve been dying to see and with whom you usually love to visit, but ouch.  Bad timing. So bad you’re tempted to hide the book in the bathroom and constantly excuse yourself to read one more page.

 So which is worse? With a story of my own, there’s a special link to the characters since they are firmly within my domain. In fact, during times of forced separation, the characters can continue to morph, and occasionally, the plot changes direction. So I’m still engaged. But does that make it easier or harder? 

 With someone else’s story, we need the book – the author’s prism. Sure, when we’re away from it, or even sometimes when we’re actually reading it, our imagination is engaged. Trying to figure out what will happen next. Piecing together bits of info on the various characters. Fantasizing about what they’re like in real life.

 But we have defense mechanisms that keep us from going too far with someone else’s story while we’re still reading it. We know from painful experience that if we build our whole world around Character X triumphing over evil, and the X gets stabbed to death in Chapter Seven…

 After we’re done reading someone else’s story, of course, our minds are free to daydream about it forever. That’s the good thing about finishing a book. The bad thing, of course, is that you really never wanted it to end. You wanted to hide in the bathroom and read it forever.


Have a lovely day!

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