As a reader, you know you’re different. Other people have noticed it too—it probably dawned on them somewhere in those five hours you spent in a bookstore when you went to the mall—but they may not be able to define just what makes you stand out from the crowd.
Allow us to help. Here’s a list of the unique qualities that make readers who they are. (It’s not exhaustive, of course…that’s why you should add traits in the comments at the end!)
Readers have strong imaginations. Sure, it’s fun to watch a good movie sometimes, but readers don’t need Hollywood to call up images of the characters and events from their favorite book. They can do that all on their own—which is why they often prefer the book to the movie, since it has their own imagining of the plot and all of the details you can’t cram into a film.
Readers love words. Yes, it’s all about the story, but there’s also the sound and beauty of words—the lovely descriptions, the imagery, the atmosphere an author can create by choosing the very best ones—for readers to enjoy. Chances are, readers did well in English at school…and possibly got caught reading a book during math class a time or two.
Readers have above-average attention spans. Okay, maybe some of them get impatient waiting for the leftovers to finish heating in the microwave. But give them a story they care about, and they’re all in. It doesn’t have to be short and catchy and interrupted by commercial breaks. They can open up a dauntingly-long novel and emerge triumphantly on the other side, usually a better person for the experience. And ready to start a new book on their never-ending TBR pile. (That’s “To Be Read” for you non-readers out there.)
Readers need community. Not while reading, of course. Too much chance of being disrupted at a key point in the plot. Trust us, readers will go to great lengths to keep from being interrupted. But after they’ve finished, most readers want to congregate and talk about what they liked, what they hated, and what might happen in the sequel (or their unwritten imagined ending after the last page). That’s why book clubs have always been popular, and more recently, online reading communities like Goodreads.
Readers feel emotions very deeply. And by this I mean they will cheer for, care about, and cry over people who do not actually exist. Here’s a tip: don’t remind them of the non-realness of the fictional character who just died, was injured, or had a heartbreaking experience of some sort. Just pass the tissues. Maybe get them a sympathy card if it’s gone on for a few days and they can’t snap out of it. You know, for closure.
Readers like to think for themselves. They don’t want you to give them five easy steps to do pretty much anything. They’d rather experience a story than go through a how-to…and they really do learn from those stories, even if they’re not taking notes like they would in a lecture.
Readers evaluate critically. There are so many choices these days that readers need to have hyper-sensitive radars for what will be worth their time. Maybe they won’t judge a book by its front (or back) cover, but chances are they’ll need to be hooked by the first few pages. This fine-tuned evaluation means they’re pretty good at trusting their instincts and explaining why they liked or didn’t like something.
Readers long to live a good story. No, they may not have unrealistic ideals of a Prince Charming who will whisk them away, but readers tend to have a deep need for purpose and a desire to impact those around them. They are more likely to “speak in dialogue”—say things from their heart—or understand and appreciate the characters that make up their lives. Whether they’re the adventurous sort or not, they want to do all they can to make their lives worth living.
How well do these traits describe you? Is there anything you would add that makes readers different from others?