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Gender Differences Among Readers...

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Richard Sutton

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Since this is the time for my annual Tolkien immersion retrospective, I seem to be more reflective now about the craft and about readers, since I am one. I'm reading a memoir recently published by a friend whose company specializes in "life journey" memoir. It is utterly gripping, honest writing with a wise-cracking voice that seems to be in constant battle with the deadly serious story. About 1/3 of the way through, I find myself distracted and lay it down. The writing is, as I said, really killer good, but all the emotion it carries is depressing me a bit, which it should, given the subject material, coping with familial suicide. If anyone wants the book recommendation, PM me and I'll pass it along.

I begin to wonder if this might now illustrate a bit of the prosaic differences between women readers and male readers. Do women (not all, maybe just a majority, since I'm not trying to pigeon-hole any gender here...) have a greater inclination to read for the emotion of it? To feel and connect it to similar emotion in their own lives? I know that several genres that are read more by women do seem to carry much more emotional writing voices, but is that a gender thing?

As a male reader who talks about books with his friends, I get the impression that men read for mostly different reasons. I read for the journey in it, which carries me away from my life in the world. Escape. Now, I know that women read for escape as well, but do women find escape in connecting to others' emotions and feelings more than I do? Maybe it's just me, although a finely wrought passage even in Dickens can move me to tears, so I know I am not bereft of feeling. Maybe I just don't see it as a destination in its own right? I know that my beta readers of both genders often suggest I put more emotional entanglement into my work to make it easier for readers to "connect" with my characters. I'm learning to do just that. What do the rest of you think? Is this a gender thing? Is this a diff'rent strokes thing?
 

Carol Rose

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Interesting question! I read for both escape and to connect with the characters/story on an emotional level. If the book is lacking in emotion, I can't get into it. I read mostly fiction, though. I don't read a lot of memoirs unless there's a compelling reason to do so, such as a person I admire or purely for curiosity's sake. When I read biographies, OTOH, or other non-fiction, I'm reading for information purposes, and don't care about the emotional aspect of it.
 

Richard Sutton

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I was so hoping you'd weigh in on this, Tara! You've written so many novels at this point, it's probably natural, but does any of this figure into your conscious writing voice?
 

Carol Rose

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I was so hoping you'd weigh in on this, Tara! You've written so many novels at this point, it's probably natural, but does any of this figure into your conscious writing voice?
I wouldn't sell shit if I didn't make sure my romance novels were full of angst. LOL! Romance readers expect emotion to pour off the page. They're mostly female readers, and they want to fall in love with the hero (or heroes!) right along with the heroine. :) The hard part (for me, at least) is making each one different enough so they don't all sound the same. ;)
 

Katie-Ellen

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I read to engage, to understand, to learn, but not to wallow. A tragedy is a tragedy, I might read to see how someone coped, came to terms; otherwise I'll avoid it. I have not read Angela's Ashes. I can't bear to. It will haunt me, and there's nothing I can do about it.
 

1408

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Hmm, I'm not sure. I'm a terrible reader because I have the attention span of a gnat, so whatever I read really has to keep me interested. Normally, it's through the characters. I like exciting characters and characters that are too emotional tend to drag for me. I really adore Robin Hobb's 'Farseer' novels but when the main character started to become a bit too pitiful it put me off him and I became more attached to secondary characters. So, I guess I like emotion, just not too much of it.

That being said, I couldn't put 'A Child Called It' down. But perhaps that was because I was desperate to see that something good came of it. Maybe that's it, you need to know there's a driver pushing the story forward and a solution after all the sorrow? Or, like Katie said, just to read about how people cope through a tragedy.
 

AliG

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I'm a real reading lightweight. Life is too serious to take on another tranche of negative at the end of a day. So a light skate over reality suits me. I rarely read a novel through- I skim more like a bunny hop. Jane Austen is wild enough. I decline reading on if it's not gripping/engaging; if 1 in 10 suddenly get better, I've missed one but not wasted my time with 9.
 
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tabby3

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As a male reader who talks about books with his friends, I get the impression that men read for mostly different reasons. I read for the journey in it, which carries me away from my life in the world. Escape. Now, I know that women read for escape as well, but do women find escape in connecting to others' emotions and feelings more than I do? Maybe it's just me, although a finely wrought passage even in Dickens can move me to tears, so I know I am not bereft of feeling. Maybe I just don't see it as a destination in its own right? I know that my beta readers of both genders often suggest I put more emotional entanglement into my work to make it easier for readers to "connect" with my characters. I'm learning to do just that. What do the rest of you think? Is this a gender thing? Is this a diff'rent strokes thing?

The journey's the thing, isn't it? Emotion for sure. But as a male, what pushes my buttons is the bully getting his, wrongs righted and justice done. A little irony, black humor and swimming against the tide also appreciated.
 

Katie-Ellen

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As a female, me too. I want to see problems solved or worked around, maybe with a bit of wit, style and grace, not whinged about to no purpose. That's the job of a novel, to demonstrate the problem and the solution arc. I read auto biographies more than I read memoirs. There's a distinction to be hashed out.
 
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