June 22, 2011

the importance of relationships

I have come to realize that I read books for relationships. I used to believe that I read a book for the plot, for the world of the story, for the adventure, for shenanigans abound. That isn’t the case anymore.

When I first began seriously reading, characters were more like vessels that navigated the narrative of a novel. I might like them, but really, they were just a means to an end. I cared more about the adventure, about what might happen in the story that would never happen to me. It was about experiencing worlds I would never know.

Over the course of the years, I came to care for characters, hope with them, dream with them, hate and love with them. I loved the adventures and the world the characters lived in, too. Recently however, I’m beginning to care less and less about plot, less and less about adventure. It’s come the point where I read a book for the relationships, romantic or not. Some stories don’t have romantic interests. Some stories are pure adventure. I enjoy those too, just not nearly as much as stories with romance. Plot is still important, but like my original view of characters, the plot is just a path that they take. Without it, the characters have no road to follow; there is no reason for their story to be told. Plot brings people together and tears them apart, building that emotional roller-coaster.

I’ve come to expect engaging relationships in books or movies. The series of books I’m reading right now, I care about the cast of characters, so much so that feel as if they’re my friends (no, I’m not crazy). I care about their relationships with one another. I want their friendships and their romances to withstand all other forces. I want them to be happy. The only reason I continue to read the books is for the need for the main character to finally be with the man she loves. Yes, the adventures are dangerous, often life-threatening, but they’re in the background.

What elicited this change, I do not know, but I find myself enjoying tender moments between characters, more so than the swashbuckling sword-fight with dark forces or the epic space battle. Maybe it’s the books I read. Maybe the author is great at characterization and not so great at plot development. Maybe it's just my tastes.
Whatever the case, my perception of stories has changed. I can’t settle for melodrama or flat relationships. I need meaningful connection in the stories I experience. I want to cry for the characters. I want to smile ear to ear when they accomplish their goals. I want to laugh. I want to shudder in fear. A story without that just feels like something less.

Do you read books or watch movies for the plot or for the characters? How do you feel about emotion connection in stories? How do you feel about romance in non-romance genre fiction?


  1. Brooke - I think you do a wonderful analysis of the pull of both types of stories and what readers will look for in each. This is a great post!

    I think I shift back and forth depending on the timeframe I'm at in my life as to whether I long for the relationship or the adventure. Best of both worlds is to have it all! :-)

  2. I do really care about the characters--I love seeing how characters' relationships with one another change or grow over the course of a story. To me a good book blends the external events--the adventure and crisis--with how the characters interact with one another.

  3. Of course the best books have both fronts excellently executed. :) It's just getting to the point where I have so many books to read that I need to care what happens to the characters. I don't want to waste my time reading a so-so book, when I could be reading something that speaks to me, that makes me care.

    Thanks for the comments :)

  4. I totally agree, Brooke. Hook me on your characters and your characters' relationships and I'm going to stay with the story until the end. And then your next book is going to be an auto-buy. :o)