Readers come in all shapes and sizes. We have our preferences and genres we stay away from. We also read for reasons – for entertainment or education. Some of us marathon read, others just dabble, dipping in and out. And unbelievably, some only read because we have to. There are many types of reader. Do you recognize yourself in any of these?
One type of reader of literary fiction keeps a close eye on character development and cannot understand how other readers can find main or secondary characters dull. These readers are interested in reading novels that focus on the human condition and hold up a mirror to show us a new perspective. Not every author is good at character development and not every reader will notice this, but critical readers certainly will.
There are types of readers who don't care about the characters; they are just interested in a fast-paced, action-packed story where a lot happens. They don't have empathy with the characters nor do they identify with the protagonists. Action, as the old adage goes, speaks louder than words, and these readers are simply chair-bound adrenalin junkies needing their fix. Lyrical style, in-depth character development and serious literature are wasted on them.
Some readers cannot pick up a book without looking at the ending first. As long as there's a happy ending, they're quite happy to read through 100,000 words of fantasy, horror, crime or romance. They want fair warning if there's a risk of being traumatised by the death of their beloved main character and want to learn what the future holds in store for the main players. These readers are full of empathy and compassion, and identify with the protagonist to a high degree. Therefore, they are likely to buy book series and become a loyal fan of authors whose books they enjoy reading.
Some readers simply hate spoilers and for that reason won't read reviews. They want to be surprised at every turn and don't like heavy-handed foreshadowing of events still to come in the book either. These readers want to solve the "puzzle" of the story for themselves. It's a sign of intelligence, not lack of compassion for the characters. It's quite difficult to promote books to this group of readers because even the "blurb" on the back cover can have too many spoilers for their liking.
How many of us occasionally skip pages – and let's face it, most of us have done so with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy – when we reach passages that describe locations or somebody's feelings in minute detail? Some readers are so impatient to find out what happens to their favourite characters, they skip whole chapters of a book. They tend to be readers who have no understanding of the underlying theme of the book or who don't care greatly about literature – they just want to be entertained "TV-style," flicking through a book like they would through TV channels with a remote control. These readers tend to be vociferous "critics," condemning a book as dull or lacking in action and impact, simply because they were to lazy to read it all and have missed out on all the good bits.
Some readers go into a wild panic when they think they've missed a clue because they accidentally skipped a paragraph or page. They are the most involved types of readers, identifying with the protagonist, reading the entire novel from cover to cover, analysing every detail and character trait, hoping there will be a sequel before they've even reached the end. Authors love this type of literary audience – once these readers like a novel's characters, they'll continue to buy an author's books for years to come.
This particular type of reader only reads books that have been recommended by all and sundry. They want to be considered "with it" and "in the know" of what's currently hot on the Booker or Nobel Prize list, and even if they don't like the book genre, they'll still buy it. They may only ever skip through it, not reading it in full, but they're sure to express an opinion on it. Everybody's a critic these days!
Which reader type are you? I like to think I’m type #1, but I think I lean more toward being a type #6.