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Varieties of Reading Experience - Input Junkie
September 13th, 2010
11:17 am

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Varieties of Reading Experience
Do You Skim?" by Jo Walton is the result of her being amazed when I told her that I skim the sorts of things I don't want to read in some fiction, and then continue with the story. She reads every word.

Actually, "sorts of thing" isn't exact-- I skim Laurel Hamilton's sex scenes, but that doesn't mean I skim everyone's sex scenes.

This led to an extended discussion, and I'd be amazed myself if there isn't at least one reading style in the comments which surprises the hell out of you.

As far as I can tell, there are people who skim sex and/or action scenes, and there are people who skim description, but nobody skims dialogue.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/433718.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:goodbyemyboy
Date:September 13th, 2010 04:37 pm (UTC)
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I skim when things get boring, which really just depends on the book. When I'm in skim mode, I don't purposely set out to not skim dialogue; but long passages of dialogue make me slow down just because it takes your brain longer to catch who's talking than it does to catch who's acting in action scenes, even if the dialogue and tags are perfectly clear.
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From:whswhs
Date:September 13th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
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My friend seki_raku has talked to me about putting on a movie or a television episode while she grades papers or does other sorts of work, watching it closely when something interesting is going on, but not otherwise; or fast forwarding through till she hits an interesting scene. I could not stand to watch anything that way, and I think I would find it irritating to see someone else do so. When I watch video, I sit down and watch it with full attention, doing nothing else. It bothers me to see chorale get up and go out to the kitchen, "just for a minute," because she may miss something.
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From:dglenn
Date:September 14th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
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A lot of American television, and some American movies, really work almost as well treated as radio plays as they do as video, except for the occasional silent, visual cue (often itself telegraphed by other cues in the soundtrack so I'll know to look up in time, but not always).

I felt a little guilty about this, until the night I was searching for something to listen to in the cab of a rental truck full of an ex-girlfriend's belongings when I was helping her move, and caught the middle of a radio drama ... and several minutes into it, suddenly realized that it was a science fiction television show I'd seen. Sure, I didn't see the expensive special effects or the beautiful-people casting on the radio, but they hadn't added anything for the radio broadcast, and it worked just fine.

There are a few American shows where this doesn't work at all (oddly enough, the examples that come to mind are sitcoms that rely heavily on facial expressions and body language to convey important information at least a couple times per episode), a few more British ones, and my very limited sample of Swedish productions suggests that it'd be a bad viewing tactic there.

That said, I can see why this approach could irritate you.
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From:whswhs
Date:September 15th, 2010 02:02 pm (UTC)
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I had the radiodrama experience with Star Trek decades ago, when my then girlfriend audiotaped episodes of the original series: It was perfectly possible to follow the action from the sound alone. She tried it once with The Avengers . . . and gave up. I once upset some Star Trek fans by saying that this showed that the program didn't make effective use of the medium.
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From:dglenn
Date:September 14th, 2010 04:44 pm (UTC)
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(Then again, lately I watch a lot of television with my mother, and she usually falls asleep during shows she very definitely wanted to watch, thus missing many more details than I do. ;-) )
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From:autopope
Date:September 13th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC)
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Author's moral received: put all your action and sex scenes inside the quotes!
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From:19_crows
Date:September 13th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I skim when I'm bored, too, and that depends on what's going on. Sometimes action scenes are boring, sometimes sex scenes are boring. Sometimes description is boring. Dialog usually isn't, but it can be.
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From:19_crows
Date:September 13th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the pointer to that discussion; it gave me stuff to think about how I read. When I'm not skimming I don't read every word, and I always assumed everyone reads that way, but maybe not.
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From:agrumer
Date:September 13th, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
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The amazing take-away for me is that large numbers of SF/F readers will read books that they don't really like.
(Deleted comment)
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From:dglenn
Date:September 14th, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC)
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It's kind of like feeling that one is obligated to eat everything on one's plate. (Not defending, just providing a partial explanation of the behaviour.)
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From:green_knight
Date:September 15th, 2010 06:04 am (UTC)
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Does one have to like all of a book to get pleasure from it? Particularly when you're reading books for the ideas they contain - and SF is a genre of ideas - you might not like certain aspects (infodumps, sex scenes, drawn-out battles) and still be interested in the rest. And sometimes we read to have read - a book, or an author that our friends are talking about, so we can build our own picture.

Also, I am puzzled that you should equate skimming over certain scenes with 'not getting pleasure' - by paying little attention to the bits that annoy them, those readers turn books into a *more* pleasurable experience for them.
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From:green_knight
Date:September 15th, 2010 05:55 am (UTC)
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I'd say they're giving writers - and stories - a chance: instead of putting books down, they're reading on. And that's not a bad trait in a reader.
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From:deor
Date:September 13th, 2010 10:24 pm (UTC)
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If you skim the sex scenes out of the Meredith Gentry stories, there's no book left.
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From:deor
Date:September 13th, 2010 10:26 pm (UTC)
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added thought: this is why I stopped reading the series. If you take all the sex out of the entire series, there's a rather cool take on the faerie struggling to come out. Alas.
From:llennhoff
Date:September 14th, 2010 02:51 am (UTC)
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My wife reads the Honor Harrington books and skims or even just flips past the infodumps on military stuff and even the battle scenes. She has complained at times that Weber has people talk too much during battles, so she has to skim instead of skip.
From:llennhoff
Date:September 14th, 2010 02:53 am (UTC)
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Changing media, if you fast forward/skip through the violent parts of Demolition Man, you have one of the best short Sci Fi comedies ever made.
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From:cellio
Date:September 14th, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
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I don't skim fiction except as a short-term measure. If I'm losing interest in a book I will sort of skim/jump ahead a few times to see if it looks like it's just a temporary lull, and if so I'll go back to reading. If that look-ahead makes me think I'm facing more of the same, I stop reading it.
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