I’ve read or listened to more than a dozen books this year, but I only fell into one. You might know this feeling. You start reading a book and somewhere in the first 20 pages or so you become immersed in the story. When you open the book the world around you drifts into fog. When you are away from the book, it is sitting in a corner of your mind, waiting for you.
This is not the demand of a compelling plot that lures the reader on through the simple device of making you want to know what happens next. This is something else. The place of the book comes up around you. You see it, you hear it and smell it and it becomes a place you feel you know. As the characters in the book reveal themselves, you are drawn to them. You begin to feel what they feel. They rejoice or recoil, or are filled with wonder or alarm and you with them.
In the best books, you find yourself thinking in the special language of the book.
And when the book ends well, not happily but truly, having fulfilled the promise of its early pages, you are a little bereft because you will never have this experience again. You can never read this book in this way again, revisit it though you may.
Betsy James’ Roadsouls was this way for me. I don’t know how this happens, exactly, this resonance between book and reader. And we are all so individual in our tastes, in what resonates, that it can’t really be predicted. In a perfect world a book find its way to its perfect readers.
A writer wants to achieve this. To create a world a reader slips into like still water. And yet while writing, you don’t think about this. You are thinking about the plot. You are moving characters around in a room or on a mountain. You are describing place and setting mood. You are thinking about the words, the way they sound together. You are making choices every day in the writing that limit the choices that will come later. It doesn’t feel like a magical process. Some days it feels, in its middle parts, tedious. But worth remembering, at the end of a tedious writing day: the goal. Using words to create the illusion of a world and a story that will draw in the perfect reader, the one your book is written to, is a fine goal. And difficult. And worthy.