Reading Fiction: Being an Active Reader

A frequent complaint I receive in my many writing critique group circles is that I read too far into the stories that I critique. This critique of my critiquing style is so prevalent that I’ve decided to explain things, mostly for my own self-esteem.

What sort of critiques am I talking about? Well, I tend to call writers out for stereotypes, storylines that suggest racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, and a bunch of other -isms. This past week, I critiqued a novel that was one solid analogy of God and Jesus Christ, the fall of man, and the fall of the Devil. It was so prevalent that I rebuilt his story in my critique pointing out the VAST and deeply woven analogy. His analogy was BRILLIANT! It was so complex and well done on many levels…with a few contradictions I don’t think he intended…

Problem is, he says that analogy doesn’t exist…My critique colleagues mostly felt the same way.

I’ve called others out for sounding sexist and that readers will see that sexism and be turned off. Others have said, you just read too much into things. Today, I think I figured out what’s going on.

Reading so much philosophy made me an active reader. I don’t mean the type of reader that catches grammar or knocks the author for his ill use of adverbs and prepositional phrases. I mean, actively tearing apart the story, what it means, what the author is trying to convey, what is being said in the background.

You might say, “Well, it’s fiction. It’s just a story.” No story should ever be “justa” story. Stories, even fairy tales, are told for a reason. They are meant to convey a moral principle or point out the good or bad in something. If you read a story for the story, even sci-fi and fantasy, you’re missing SO MUCH!

So, I say this to my readers and those in my critique groups: Don’t expect me to relent. Active reading is what keeps me going. Having an active editor will make your story more important to the world. And, given the swath of books flying at you from all angles, if you don’t have an IMPORTANT BOOK, nobody gives a damn.

2 thoughts on “Reading Fiction: Being an Active Reader

  1. Omg, someone who cares! I love that fact that you critique that way. I too don't like stories that are "just stories." I want everything to have a point, some lesson to be learned, some new way of looking at things. I'm glad you're doing that, and trying to make others see that too.

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