Most books are very personal, intimate experiences; and in contrast to video games, very few are meant to be re-ead. The most important voice is that of the narrator, books having a more controlled authorial voice due to typically needing only one writer and only one editor to complete production. Still, from the reader's perspective, the message also relies on the his/her own interpretation of the “voice”: grammar, speech patterns, accents, font use, tone, pace, or the apparent rhythm used when reading the text. All these elements affect YOUR personal interpretation of the text, especially when it's read to YOU by SOMEONE else! When this occurs, the act of reading becomes a shared experience due to that other person's “voice”. For example, I like World War Z as a book, but I found it to be even more of a written achievement as an audio book, because the voice actors performed the accents from the countries the characters belonged to! I wouldn't have been able to “hear” them with much (if any) fidelity when imagining them. I did this with my darling Sarah with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, sans character acting; She was way better versed in that universe than I was. When I'd pause confused, she'd notice and fill in the gaps; when our voices grew tired, we'd stop for the day or take any necessary breaks. Aww, we're so cute... It was a fantastic experience! I think it was as “multiplayer”, and collaboratively assisted as books can get, taking us both about 5 days across multiple reading sessions. The length of this shared experience wasn't that much different than normal, since very few books are short enough for a single reading session. Even fewer are re-readable, and aside from where the reading comprehension and ability is developing or nonexistent (kids, foreign speakers, the blind), most reading is also single reader.
To assist with context and pacing, writers and editors know how to insert deliberate breaks in the form of chapter divisions, titles, abnormal punctuation, etc. These act like reading “landmarks”, little literary bread crumbs that help us find our way back to the main path as we journey through the many roads a book offers. I rely on these because – truthfully – I have never read intending to retain every, single, minute detail between sessions per se, but I both read and play through books and games to grok meaningful moments that move me. Now, save for earmarking, the following list has become my Meta-Reading tactics (the 6th wall)... unwritten “rules” I taught myself to better guarantee continuity though my reading sessions.
- I never go to sleep in the middle of a paragraph or page of any book I'm reading. I try to read from the begining to the end of a chapter, always aware of the number of pages left to read before feeling ok to put the book down
- I keep my index finger pinched between the last page of the chapter and the back cover, glancing at the page numbers just so the last page's appearance doesn't catch me by surprise.
- * When there are no chapters to be found, I try to leave the earmark at the beginning of some dialogue/picture/eye catching text shape.
- If I have to, I prefer to interrupt reading at a good cliffhanger; it makes me want to get back to the book as quickly as possible
- When I highlight/underline, I mostly do so for new vocabulary or quotable phrases; adding notes along the margins, mostly to remember why I marked it and to seem smart to those I lend the book to...Screen-shots in games being somewhat analogue to this.
- It has been a long time now since I was quizzed on a book (I kinda miss it); although, I share books and conversations about them with my friends so that I can cross-reference my interpretation.
- I DREAD the last 20% of any book! I wonder if the writer will pull off what seems impossible: to tie all the loose ends left in the preceding 80% within the remaining few pages.
- I hate backtracking in books more than in games, and I JUMP TO BOLD LETTERS!
- I especially avoid any, ANY, spoilers (game or movie spoilers too)... my interpretation of events being more important than even that of the author; ALWAYS!
Keyvan Acosta lives in Orlando, FL where he is a game designer and musician. He also teaches a 2 month game project at Full Sail University and is also the founder/host of a most excellent game development workshop called theplaymine.com, dedicated to "mining play" through the creation of experimental games, the evaluation of game development techniques, and the joy of working in a collaborative environment.