Sunday, November 14, 2010
TSS: How important is PLOT to you?
Hello again, Sunday Salon! I was in the mood to write a post, and what better way to come back (especially when I haven't actually read anything) than through the Sunday Salon? I can't think of one :-)
First, I'd just like to share how depressed I was to get on my Google Reader yesterday and realize that I somehow completely missed an entire week of book blogging dedicated to NYRB Classics. What?! How did this happen?! I am a complete evangelist for NYRB Classics. And I had not even the slightest inkling that this week was taking place. I know my reaction is probably an exaggerated one and I also know that there is no way I could physically participate in NYRB Classics week, but... really. It depressed me that I didn't even know about it.
Anyway, moving on.
Oh, wait- shout out to anyone who participated this week and read Wish Her Safe at Home. Good on you. To all the myriads of others who read and reviewed The Post-Office Girl and The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne- well, those moved up on my TBR list, too, and hopefully I can get to them over Christmas break. My Thanksgiving break, I hope, will be dedicated to The Outward Room. Which has been pretty brilliant so far, in the first 20 pages or so.
Anyway, moving on for real now.
I started this "How Important Is..." series some months ago and I have really enjoyed the discussion it fosters, albeit on a very irregular basis. If you have ideas on other aspects of a novel that are important to your reading experience that you'd like me to explore at some point in the future, please let me know!
But for now... how important is the plot of a novel for you? Most novels have a plot summary on their back covers. Granted, these can be very misleading sometimes. But usually they have some basis in fact. How many people, though, come across a book on the shelf, pick it up, read the back cover, and then decide to purchase it? I'll bet there aren't that many, unless you're at a pretty cheap used bookstore or a very crowded book fair.
But does that mean we don't purchase books for the plot? I am not sure. I think for me, I do so much research on a book before purchasing it that I don't need the back cover to convince me. Usually, I go to bookstores armed with a list of books I am looking for. Or I'll see a title on the shelf that I've seen reviewed positively by one of you fabulous bloggers and decide to give it a try. So in that case, I guess, I have a general idea of the plot, and it interests me enough to purchase the book.
And really, plot is important for some stories. A lot of people read mysteries and police procedurals and expect a very tightly-conceived plot. Fantasy novels, many of which take place over a series of books, also require a well-planned storyline. And it is generally very difficult to write a novel that has no plot. But is that the main thing that you look for?
I think, for me, it's not. I say this even though I am one of those people who must always read the end of a book very soon after starting the story, just to know how it ends. Clearly, knowing the plot of a story is important to me. But I will keep reading a story that doesn't have a great plot, if I feel invested in the characters, or if I think the writing is so good. I also don't really pick books up based on plots. This could be due to the fact that most people don't like discussing plot in great detail in reviews for fear of spoilers. So really... if I get all my book recommendations from blogs and book-related news sources, it would be impossible for me to choose a book based on plot. No, I think I pick more on historical era or general subject matter or intriguing characters. That said, though, a good plot can keep me up reading way past my bedtime and thinking about the story long after I've finished reading it.
What about you? How important is the plot of a novel to your level of reading enjoyment?