Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reading by Type

emo kid Image courtesy of JasonRogersFotographie

For a long time, I've noticed that there are certain types of heroines in romances.  For example, the bookish, shy girl who doesn't get out much.

Now that I'm on a bit of a YA reading bender, I'm noticing something similar: the heroines are either super-smart honor society types or dissatisfied emo chicks.  Either of which are good bets as readers.  Or they're just readers in general, like Bella in Twilight or Ethan in Beautiful Creatures.

So what I've always wondered is, are these heroes/heroines typified as readers specifically with the goal of us, the audience, identifying with them?

Another thing I've noticed about heroes or heroines:  they are very rarely fully social personalities.  They may participate in social activities, but they always hold themselves apart somehow.  Elizabeth Bennet, for example, made fun of practically everyone and only had one real friend, although she was pretty sociable (also, she improved her mind through the reading of books).  And a whole slew of them are downright anti-social.

This presents a trickier issue than just having a character read.  Although reading is mostly a personal activity that one basically does by oneself (I'm thinking of reading aloud as the exception), so is writing.  Are authors trying to connect main characters to readers or to themselves?

My main question, though, is if it matters.  Would you be able to connect to a character who didn't read or who couldn't be alone for five minutes?  Or is a certain amount of literacy and self-reflection necessary as part of the nature of a novel and how we, as readers, connect to it?

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