Reading Habits

Suspense author and fabulous blogger Stacy Green tagged me in a “Get to Know You” game. That makes me think of The King and I, and now my brain is off on a tangent of hearing Deborah Kerr sing “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you . . .”

Never mind.

Anyway, games come with RULES: 1. You must post the rules. 2. Answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged. 3. Tag eleven people and link to them. 4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

Rather than invent new questions and tag others, I decided I really just want to answer Stacy’s questions because they focus on fiction. Since I like to talk about fiction on Deep-Fried Fridays, here’s a little about me and my reading habits:

If you could live in a fictional world, where would that be?

First choice, Narnia. I definitely want to meet Aslan . . . and ride a horse and wield a sword and talk to animals.

Next choice (and quite the opposite), a James Bond novel. I actually didn’t like the book Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, but I am convinced that I missed my calling as a Bond girl. What do you think my name should be?

Do you read in noisy or quiet places?

I prefer quiet, but I can read with background buzz. If the voices or music are too close, however, I find myself easily distracted. I definitely hate that feeling of reading a sentence four times over because other stimuli are throwing my concentration off. That said, my favorite place to read is outdoors, where the background noise is an ocean tide thundering or birds and cicadas chirping.

What was the first book you ever read?

The ones I most recall reading were the Nancy Drew and The Little House on the Prairie series. Before these, though, my favorite story as a child was Gerald McBoing-Boing by Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss).

I also read Bluebeard from a fairy tale collection over and over. The story both intrigued and unnerved me.

Pic from alykam.deviantart.com

If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be? No, not one! Asking a voracious reader that question is like saying, “Which finger do you most want to keep?” “Um, all of them!”

Okay, okay — back against the wall, tortured if I don’t decide, and not counting a standard answer like “the Bible” — I’ll pick Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd  C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (My gut is wrenching and my face is twitching. Only one book?)

Pic from needlebook.blogspot.com

Favorite author?

I cannot pick another JUST ONE! I already did that! Here are a few authors I’ve read several books from: C.S. Lewis, Charles Martin, Rhys Bowen, Agatha Christie, Charlaine Harris (but not her Sookie Stackhouse series), Leo Tolstoy, the Bronte family (can’t I count them all together?), Rosemary Clement-Moore, Elizabeth Peters, Lois Lowry, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Is that enough? I bet I could think of more.

Do reviews influence your choice of reads?

Yes, a little. If something is widely adored or panned, I pay attention. Even then, however, I try to find out why people had such an intense reaction. A recommendation from a friend who shares my taste trumps an official book review, though.

Fiction or Non-fiction?

Like eating vegetables, I read non-fiction because it’s good for me. Like devouring chocolate, I read fiction because it’s yummy to me.

Have you ever met your favorite author?

Nope. Oddly enough, I don’t have a strong desire to meet authors or celebrities. It would be nice, but as long as they keep writing great books . . .

Audio books or Paperbacks?

Paperbacks. I’m also learning to like ebooks. I prefer, however, to do non-fiction through audio. I can listen well to an audio book while cleaning my house or walking around the neighborhood.

Classic or Modern Novels?

Classic — but not because the writing was any better before. It’s mainly because if something’s great, it’s still around fifty years from now. If something stinks, it usually falls by the wayside. That said, I read more modern novels because I have so many friends with books out and it sharpens my understanding of what I should be writing now.

Book Groups or Solitary Reading?

I have been in a Book Club for several years. However, the six of us would be friends regardless; we meet six times a year, every other month; and we read 1-2 books for each meeting. The rest of the time, I’m a solitary reader.

The book we have tapped for our next meeting is a non-fiction bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

So I said that I’m not making up eleven questions, but I will make up ONE. I’ll pose it, answer it, and then ask you to respond to it in the comments.

If you could invite three dead authors to a dinner for four, whom would you invite? I think I’d have a rip-roaring great time with Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, and Leo Tolstoy. If one of them turned down the invite, Jane Austen would be next on my list.

Thanks to Stacy Green for this great exercise. If you haven’t popped over there, check out her blog. Her Thriller Thursday posts are especially intriguing.

So who would you invite to dinner? Also feel free to answer any of the above questions about your own reading habits!

Friday Fiction: The Power of Three

Among the mainstays in the world of fiction is the TRILOGY. As I cracked upon Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, I wondered why a set of three is so common. 

 

It made me think how decorators are always saying that knick-knacks, vases, and other décor should come in sets of three because that is more appealing to the eye. There are the clichés that “Good things come in threes” or “Bad things come in threes,” depending on whether you are hearing it from an optimist or a pessimist. My own faith, Christianity, values the number three since God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit constitute the Trinity. More threes include the Three Musketeers, the Three Stooges,  three Charlie’s Angels, three branches of government, three parts of a nucleus, the three Chipmunks, three primary colors, Christopher Columbus’s three ships, and three judges on American Idol (that fourth one never worked). 

So are we just fascinated by threes, and thus the fictional trilogy seems the perfect length to tell a tale? After all, when we talk of a story having a beginning, a middle, and an end, that’s another three. 

Here are a few of the fiction trilogies I’ve read.  

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – The ultimate fantasy trilogy which set the standard for many that followed. The Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, and Return of the King relate the tale of a reluctant hobbit and his friends’ quest to overcome forces of evil in Middle-earth.

Maggie Quinn vs. Evil – Author Rosemary Clement-Moore calls this a series, but until she writes a fourth book (go right ahead, Rosemary!) I’m calling it a trilogy, which I read this year. Prom Dates from Hell, Hell Week, and Highway to Hell are the three so far, which deal with Maggie Quinn and her brushes with demons. 

Midnighters Trilogy – Written by Scott Westerfeld, this young adult trilogy consists of The Secret Hour, Touching Darkness, and Blue Noon. It’s a fascinating series about teenagers with supernatural abilities and evil lurking at midnight. 

Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis – Consisting of The Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength, this science fiction trilogy takes place in three planets of our solar system. Lewis had started a fourth, The Dark Tower, but he didn’t finish before his death in 1963. 

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Okay, I know it’s not a trilogy, but it was originally intended to be. I did read Hitchhiker’s Guide, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and Life, the Universe, and Everything. Adams still used the word trilogy, calling Mostly Harmless “the fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named trilogy.” And I think that’s funny, so I’m keeping it on the trilogy list! 

There are several others that began as a trilogy (The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice), caught fire, and led to a slew of books in the series. It’s awfully tempting for an author to keep giving readers what they seem to want and are definitely willing to buy. (Check out this interesting article about “Trilogy Creep” –  the strange tendency of trilogies to expand and see more and more works added.) Mind you, I only read the first three of Rice’s vampire series and happily have no idea what happened after that; presumably more blood-sucking. 

What do you think of trilogies?  Why are they so popular?  What trilogies have you read?  Which ones would you recommend?

Wednesday Words: Sesquipedalianism

I love long, descriptive words that hint at their meaning.  Serendipity is surprisingly delightful every time it rolls off my tongue.  The word tentacles seems to reach and encircle me.  Rambunctious has a pop in the middle of the word that seems energetic and ornery at the same time.  Effervescent sounds hissing and bubbly.

But perhaps my favorite example is the word sesquipedalianism – which means the use of long words.  Isn’t that grand?!  I’ve known people who are sesquipedalians (given to the use of long words), including my husband at times.  There is something intriguing about a person who can insert the perfect, arcane four-syllable word whenever a situation calls for it.  Plenty of authors are in favor of peppering their writing with tongue-twisting words of great length.  I’ve read them; haven’t you?

I don’t know when I could possibly interject the word sesquipedalianism into a novel, but I await that golden opportunity.  Maybe I’ll create a character who uses long, esoteric words excessively and have another character quip about his rampant sesquipedalianism.   Perhaps I’ll babble on and on in a novel myself and refer to the narrator’s sesquipedalianism.  Someday, though, somehow, someone in my novels will display sesquipedalism.  (Perhaps I’m doing it already.)

In case you’re wondering about the word’s etymology, “sesqui” means one-and-a-half and “ped,” of course, means “foot.”   Thus, the use of words over a foot-and-a-half long!

In reality, of course, most writing should be far more accessible.  The trick is to make what the narrator and characters say seem natural, effortless.  A well-placed, multisyllabic word can be appropriate.  But C.S. Lewis, replying to a letter from a child, advised, “Always prefer the plain direct word to the long vague one.  Don’t implement promises, but keep them.”  Soon after, he added, “Don’t use words too big for the subject.  Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.”(Letters to Children, p. 64.)

I agree.  In fact, it would be awful to talk about serendipity when something is only slightly surprising or nice.  Or to constantly refer to my children as rambunctious when they rarely run that wild.  In fact, I have yet to find a perfect spot for my word sesquipedalianism.  I have opted instead for relatively average words of average length.  I hope that makes my writing more readable.

Still, one of these days, the perfect circumstance will arise, and I will happily type sesquipedalianism on a stark white screen.  Okay, not simply on this blog, but in a book.  Won’t that be serendipitous?

What are some of your favorite one-and-a-half foot words?

Round of Words in 80 Days Update:  1,392 of 5,000 words written, 64 of 186 pages edited, and two sick kids back at school.  Okay, that last one wasn’t a write goal, but now that they are well, I can write even more!