What I'm reading: The Professional, by Robert B. Parker
Like countless other children, I was encouraged—with the fear that children all over the world might starve otherwise—to finish whatever my mother put on my plate. Most of the time, I liked her fare, but like countless other children, there were some things I found less palatable than others. Veggies often fell into this category. Still, we were expected to eat them. Not understanding how not finishing Brussels sprouts could cause the death of children in China, but not wanting their demise on my conscience, I'd do my best to eat what was put in front of me. And there was no Food Network in those days; my mother's cooking wasn't all that creative until we were much older (Just watch, today will be the one day Mom decides to read my blog!)
My strategy was always to get the yuckiest stuff out of the way first, then move on to the good tastes.
When I was a young mom, the experts suggested not creating the "dessert as reward" mindset. Rather, they suggested that while youngsters were still being spoon fed, one alternate all the 'courses' so that strained peaches were no more important than strained peas. Once my twins were into solid food, I just stuck everything into those compartmentalized plates and let them at it.
I went the mixed vegetable route more often than not, and when one had picked out her favorites, I swapped plates and let them have the other's leftovers. One liked peas, one liked carrots. One picked out the corn. Okay, so I wasn't June Cleaver. My kids survived and were healthy enough.
Aside: I'm not getting into the basic reasons babies like sweets—that sweet things were 'safe' to eat and bitter things were often poisonous, so genetically, we're wired to like sweets, and not until we're older do we develop a taste for the more exotic flavors. That's a completely different topic, and I'm rambling enough already.
What does this have to do with writing? Allow me to stretch the topic until it threatens to snap. When I write, I have to be linear. I go from appetizer to salad to entrée to dessert. The farthest I can deviate is to leave a scene not quite finished, knowing how it's supposed to end, but just not sure how to get that hook so the reader will turn the page. Or maybe there's a bit of research, and I'm waiting for an answer. I know where I'm going, so I skip ahead just a little and begin the next scene.
For the book I'm working on, there's a "secret" which happens to be a letter. We see it written in the prologue, but don't know what it says. Frankly, at that point, neither did I. But eventually, in order to make sure I had the right motivations for my characters, I had to write the letter. I did, then set it aside until my characters found it. But that's as out of sequence as I've ever been able to write. I fear that if I skip around, the characters won't be behaving the way they should at that point in the book, because they'll have changed by the time they get there.
What really triggered this post, however, is the way I read, not write. Although I love my cross stitch project, it's not really the way I normally live.
I was reading an anthology, which I got because I love one of the 4 contributing authors. I'd never heard of the other 3. And that favorite author's story was the first in the book. I read about 15 pages, then stopped, because it was dessert. It was a story I wanted to savor. I knew the characters, and I wanted to be able to know that when I finished that story, I'd be left with a good taste in my mouth. After a quick check to confirm the other 3 stories were definitely independent, with only the tiniest thread connecting one to another, I moved on and read the other three first (but in order). Then, I went back and had my dessert.
I tend to read dessert books at home, usually when I know I have a reasonable amount of uninterrupted reading time. These are not the books I take to the doctor's office. Even a long wait is still full of distractions. Or on errands, where there are a few minutes here, a few minutes there. Or at the hair salon, which is a noisy place, and the 'wait here while your color processes' chair is not comfortable. I like quiet, cozy surroundings with my dessert reads.
Day before yesterday, I got a meat and potatoes book from the library. This morning, I got a dessert read. Eager as I am to dive in, I'm going to finish my entrée before indulging in dessert.
What about you? Do you have different reading styles? Preferences?