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!

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13 thoughts on “Novel Escapism

  1. A good book is only second to a great dream. Sometimes the book even enhances the dream. To me, a notoriously slow reader, a good book is the best way to escape from everyday worries and tensions. If I can take that book to a favorable environment, so much the better. A satisfying ending to the book is all the more fulfilling.

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    • Wow I didn’t consider dreaming! That really is the best form of escape. I’ve had some crazy dreams lately, and I think it’s because I’ve been reading more this week. Thanks for coming by!

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  2. Hmm . . . my preferred method of escape depends on my mood. I enjoy both books and movies, but for different reasons.

    Some things I would only watch, not read (e.g., Star Wars and Downton Abbey).
    Other things, I would read and watch, over and over (e.g., Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or Austen’s Pride & Prejudice).

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  3. Good grief, just scanned through this post and there was a major text shift hiccup in the editing phase. My apologies for the last paragraph being a little stranger than usual! It’s been fixed now.

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  4. I’m probably going to be murdered by the author community for saying this, but…I like TV better than books. ::ducks so the books people throw at her don’t hit her:: Reading has always been hard for me. Translating words into pictures is a lot harder for me than vice-versa.

    TV, on the other hand, is actually the greatest form of art in my book (no pun intended). Costumes, set decoration, lighting, sound engineering, prosthetics, stunts, make-up…there’s so much that goes into making a TV show and watching all those little details that most authors (myself included) leave out really give a scene texture and enhance emotional resonance. And of course, there’s always those little fluctuations in an actor’s face and body language that speak volumes yet can’t actually be captured the same way in words.

    And don’t even get me started on the scripts. I could spend HOURS analyzing and discussing the brilliance of the scripts of some of my favorite TV shows.

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    • As with every debate there has to be two sides and it is true with the TV vs books debate. There is a great deal of art and talent that goes into creating a believable world in visual formats just as there is when we consider written formats.

      Although it’s unusual for an author to admit they prefer tv to reading, it’s not totally unheard of.

      There’s is a lot to be learned from both reading and watching tv, it’s all a matter of perspective.

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    • I can agree that TV and movies can really enhance the imagery of a good book. Examples abound, like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and others. However, TV and movies can do just the opposite, as well. Jean Auel’s “Children of the Earth” series was done a terrible injustice when the movie, “Clan of the Cave Bear” was released. What the visual media cannot do is get all the details which are presented in the books they are based on. I love good movies, but a book can be indulged in and savored in my mind at my leisure. These days, IMHO, TV has lost its luster and cheapened the art form it used to be with too much unreal reality shows.

      Cat, you’re safe. I’ll not throw books or stones at you. I’m a notoriously slow reader, so movies can serve to whet my appetite for a good book. And, sometimes that movie is better than the book.

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  5. Though I love reading and have an English degree to boot, I do wonder sometimes if we Westerners have become bibliolatrous. For thousands of years, “books” were listening to a shaman or skop or town raconteur, absorbing a religious ritual or watching an acting troupe. Were our ancestors any less clever or fulfilled? Was their escapism an less fulfilling? I think we’d be arrogant and ignorant in the extreme to assume a “Yes” (which, I must rush to say, no one here is assuming or arguing).

    Not to say I want to go all Fahrenheit 451 on books–gawds, no! But us bookish folk do sometimes betray snobbery, methinks. We’d do well to think outside the book.

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    • You make a valid argument. Historically speaking stories were shared via the oral tradition, there were simply no other options. Literacy hasn’t been the norm until the last hundred or so years.

      Are there many ways to be enriched in today’s world? Yes. Are they all equal? No. In that it is much the same as it was in years past. Are books the elite form of escapism? For many I believe the answer is yes. Does that make us snobbish? No. (At least not all of us) We just know what we like and enjoy it so much that it would be criminal not to share.

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