Monday, March 17, 2008

Reading Out of Sequence

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve read two books out of sequence. Neither on purpose.

The first was a Martha Grimes book called Dakota. Once I sat down to read it, I discovered it was a sequel and I hadn’t read the first. But I kept on reading. The second was by CJ Box, called Savage Run. I knew this was part of his series, but for some strange reason, I thought I had read the others before this one. Turns out I’d only read the first.

Problem with reading a book out of sequence is that inevitably you find out spoilers for the books you missed. In the case of CJ Box, this is how I figured out I’d missed books number 2 and 3. A couple of times he references something that had already happened and I was flummoxed as to how I couldn’t remember it. So I went and read the back flaps of those books, and sure enough, I hadn’t read them. Since then I’ve read book 2 – the event didn’t happen in this book. So I know it’s going to happen in book 3, which I’ve started reading.

Now, I’m not saying authors shouldn’t reveal major plot points or events from earlier books. As an author, you have to if your characters are to grow as people. What happened to them in the past affects them and how they react in the future. What I’m really saying is that readers – I’m talking me, of course – should pay more attention to the order in which they read a series. On the other hand, writers might be served to once in a while read a series out of order. By reading book 4 and finding out something that happened in an earlier book, I’m now reading those intervening books with a writer’s eye. I know what’s going to happen, so I’m watching how Box set it up. I now know that this event wasn’t something he set up in one book. Either he knew it would happen in book 3 and he laid the groundwork in book 2 or ...

He was as surprised as the reader. Maybe when he outlined or plotted out the next book, he realized this major event had to occur. Or perhaps as he wrote the book, he came to a point where he saw where the characters were headed and it became inevitable. I don’t know whether it was planned and plotted out books ahead of time or whether it happened as he wrote.

Either way, authors character their books, have things happen to those characters, and have them go places that may not have consequences for several books down the road. And I think that’s very interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...