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Writing has changed the way I read. I don’t know if it’s true for all writers, but I read differently now. And I don’t mean that it makes me a more critical reader. In some ways, it does. In other ways, it makes me a more compassionate reader.
But the big difference is that I notice things now that I wouldn’t have noticed before. Currently, I’m reading a NYT bestselling thriller. As the author spins her story, little details about the characters stand out. And I know that those details aren’t random filler—they are subtly preparing the reader for a twist at the end. In other words, the details lead me to suspect that the “guilty” party really isn’t guilty. He’s the victim.
And I wonder if it’s less “fun” for me as a reader. If I weren’t seeing these hints for what they are—preparations for the reversal at the end, would the novel be more exciting? Does seeing the hand of the author behind the scenes spoil its effect? After all, one of the things writers try to do is disappear. We work to leave no trace of ourselves in the text. So, does being a writer and knowing the “tricks of the trade” spoil the experience? Perhaps.
But there is another facet to the experience. As a writer, I appreciate the text more. I see the nuances and skill. I suspect it’s a “forest and trees” issue. I can’t have the same kind of “forest” experience anymore, because I see so many individual trees. But those trees can sure be gorgeous—the texture of the bark, the shade of leaves, the strength of the branches. Maybe it’s just exchanging one experience of beauty for another.
On the other hand, if I’m completely wrong about the thriller, it would be very cool. And you’ll hear me squeal because I’ll have seen the forest and the trees.
What are your thoughts? If you’re a writer, does it change your experience of reading? And if you don’t write, would you as a reader want to notice the machinations of the writer in the text?