Thursday, 21 November 2013

Reading The Reader's Mind

I am no expert on all things literary. I have thoughts, opinions, observations, just as you all do. Not all my thoughts, opinions and observations are agreeable to everyone of course, but then varied opinion adds spice to what could otherwise be an all too polite conversation about books. And where is the fun in an all too polite conversation? Those are best left to the Victorians who are, thankfully, extinct.

In the spirit of varied opinion. I have one. An observation if you will. On why people are drawn to types of characters, plots, settings and story feel.
To my eyes it comes down to this. What part of your mind do you use when you read?
I believe that, though very much a woman, I read with my masculine side.
That doesn't mean I like battles and macho-centric books, what it means is that I have a low tolerance for feminine drama and emotions and for female characters (unless they too seem driven by their masculine side). I have this low tolerance in life anyway, but I have even less tolerance for it in books. I prefer adult male characters and male dominated settings.
I am not necessarily a product of my environment although I do live in a male dominated world and I speak to men many times a week and can go many months without speaking to another woman. There is no doubt that how you interact with your fellow man/woman in real life can be reflected in your reading tastes, but I still believe wholeheartedly that, as individuals, our path through life has trained our brains to enjoy and seek out particular types of characters and personalities in books.

So what parts of the mind do I think people read with?

To me there are three very definitive ones. The feminine, the masculine and the inner child.

The feminine reader can be male or female and he/she seems to need some form of female presence in books. Female characters are preferable to the reader who reads with their feminine side, but they aren't completely necessary. If a book has no prominent female characters, the feminine reader needs the male characters to be less macho and more emotive. A nurturer, gentle lover, a deeply reflective soul, tortured, wielding a charisma guaranteed to attract the opposite sex (or same sex..whatever your fancy).
The feminine reader likes matters of the heart.

The masculine reader who also can be male or female, gets exasperated or worn down with female characters and feminine feel. The masculine reader wants his or her male characters to be preoccupied with living life and not bothered with the whimsical and the melodramatic. He/she can read a whole book without noticing there were no female characters.
Focus on marriages, children, love and languishing in ones emotions are not valued character features to the masculine reader.
The masculine reader likes matters of the mind.

The inner child reader is easy to spot. They are still young themselves, or are simply in touch
with their inner child, or they will have children of their own and delight in relating to child characters or in reading young adult books because of that.
The inner child reader is anchored to their childhood. There are memories there that draw them to YA books or young characters in adult fiction. I do not know what those memories are of course – I am not an inner child reader – but I do often see men and women who read the children's classics of their youth, or read YA or juvenile fiction because they still have their childhood side deeply embedded in their psyche.
This does not mean the inner child reader is emotionally stunted or childish. It only means that something about YA books or child characters in adult books, resonates with them and gives them succour.
The inner child reader likes matters of the soul.

Naturally, some readers are going to have pieces of all three toiling away inside them. One is going to dominate their reading preferences however. One will always be the strongest.

I, without shadow of doubt, am dominated by my masculine side when I read. On occasion I can feel a little of my feminine side like a candle flame flickering dimly in a darkened window, but I never, ever read with my inner child. I have one, as we all do, but it expresses itself in other ways in my life. Joy of cooking mother's recipes, a lingering infatuation with light pink colours, baby animals. But when it comes to reading, I am all man, all of the way and I think romance is for girls (or for guys with a little bit of girl inside them)!

- MM


  1. What a fascinating insight. This may help explain something I discovered this month. I'd posted some extracts from my novels on a forum and found that women readers often latched on to the women in the passages even though they weren't central to the narrative. (This is me admitting to being a male(ish) writer.) I'm going to go away and think about your concepts and what it means to me as a reader and writer. Martin Lake

    1. Hi Martin,
      That is interesting. When I think about what that could actually mean to you as a opens up a can of worms doesn't it. What is your true audience? Despite writing in a male(ish) way, are you actually writing in a way that might appeal to the feminine reader more so than the masculine reader? or are you actually able to appeal to both...
      Food for thought. Glad you got some insights out of my ramblings. :)