Novel Escapism

To be transported, to escape, to live another life… These are all reasons for diving into a good book.  As much as we can enjoy our reality, there is something so appealing in sliding inside the pages of a story and living someone else’s life, even if just for a few hours.

The kind of escapism found in a good book can’t be found anywhere else.  Some will argue that they find it in TV and movies as well, but to me it’s not the same. Watching TV or a movie engages only two senses, sight and hearing and these are provided for the watcher at the push of a button.  All that is required is to watch.  In a book however, the reader must do far more than just keep his eyes open.  He must read then interpret each idea, using his brain to figure out what it means.  He must form a mental picture using the descriptions on the page.

James_Tissot_-_The_Ball

James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If an author were to describe a woman wearing a yellow dress, the reader would then have to fill in the blanks – usually to their preference.  If the author doesn’t include a description of her hair the reader is free to give her whatever style and color he prefers.  The reader must invest time and mental energy to creating the image.  In contrast, TV and movies simply give the image to the watcher.  Because they have invested no energy of their own, the experience isn’t as strong or as powerful.

Although a book is only words, those words have power to invoke feelings and reactions. It is the goal of the writer to make the reader feel. When a reader can’t put down a book because they have become hooked. If we as writers succeed in that, we have created something worth reading. The reader doesn’t only see what the character is doing, but they are also privy to what is going on inside that characters head, something that is difficult if not impossible to do on the screen.  When the reader gets that unique perspective of what the character is feeling and thinking, they can dig more deeply into that character’s world making the reading experience even richer.

I still like TV and movies, they still pack a powerful punch and, when done well, are excellent ways to escape for a while.  They are a wonderful source of ideas and inspiration when I’m feeling drained, and one can be finished in the course of an hour or two.  It’s the ultimate quick fix.  But – when I really want to escape, you’ll find me in a book.

How do you escape?  Share in the comments below!