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the basics > things to think about as we begin our journey

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message 1: by karen, future RA queen (last edited Feb 12, 2011 08:18AM) (new)

karen (karenbrissette) | 1315 comments Mod
this might seem like a lot of information, but a lot of this is intuitive and you probably do some of this unconsciously already in your reviews or when you are recommending books to other people. it is not intimidating!

subject headings vs. appeal factors

subject headings are basically the nouns used to catalog the book. so, something like the sun also rises might have subject headings such as: spain, bullfighting, expatriates, etc.

appeal factors are more nebulous and difficult to pin down. these make up the "feel" of the book.

sun also rises would be spare, waywardness, sadness, dissoultion etc..

you see?? i will discuss appeal factors much more thoroughly, because they make up the bulk of RA work. subject headings are not always helpful when helping someone choose a book. saricks uses an excellent example, which i will shamelessly cite: "Both Mary Stewart and T.H. White have written Arthurian fantasies, but White's madcap romp has a different appeal from Stewart's more serious, elegiac approach...The more that readers' advisors work at articulating appeal, the better we become at identifying it and at asking the questions that help us effectively ascertain a book's appeal as well as the kinds of books a particular reader is in the mood to read."

so let's get started.


message 2: by karen, future RA queen (last edited Feb 14, 2011 08:50AM) (new)

karen (karenbrissette) | 1315 comments Mod
so there are four major appeal factors, within which there is some overlap. basically, they are pacing, storyline, characterization, and frame.

pacing is probably the most important distinction, because it polarizes readers. genre fiction tends to be more fast-paced and plot-driven, while literary fiction tends to be more character-driven and slower-paced. there are tons of exceptions to this rule, and i am using the vocabulary we have at hand rather than making a value judgment with the word "literary." it's considered a genre, so that's where we are.

one of the simplest ways to identify the pacing of a book is to determine whether there is more dialogue or more description. dialogue speeds up pacing, and a casual flip through any book will show you this, and also the length of the chapters, sentences, and paragraphs, all indicators of the pacing of the book.


message 3: by karen, future RA queen (last edited Feb 12, 2011 08:19AM) (new)

karen (karenbrissette) | 1315 comments Mod
storyline covers a wide range of factors: whether a book is single- or multi-narrative, whether it is a linear or a more convoluted structure, whether the focus of the narrative is on the characters or on the events, what the tone of the treatment is; if it is serious or lighthearted, whether the book is more about action or about psychological elements.


message 4: by karen, future RA queen (new)

karen (karenbrissette) | 1315 comments Mod
frame is the next, and the most poorly named, in my opinion. to me, it sounds like it should be that which borders or contains the story, but it is actually that which permeates or pervades the story. because it is everything: setting, atmosphere, background, tone - every descriptive detail. is it whimsical or bleak or sexy; is it uplifting or terrifying or placid; how much detail is given, does it feel authentic or not?


message 5: by karen, future RA queen (last edited May 15, 2011 08:05AM) (new)

karen (karenbrissette) | 1315 comments Mod
characterization this one is more sensible. is the narrator first-person, recognizable, quirky, are there many different narrators, are there supporting characters that are interesting, is this character part of a series where they will change over time? some readers cannot stand the unreliable narrator, and some prefer it.

there are so many factors to the reading experience, many of which are unconscious. RA tries to train the reader to become more aware of these tiny structural details to help focus book requests, but again - this is all just a superficial overview to see if a group like this is useful and sustainable.


keep in mind that these are all useful distinctions, but may not all apply to everyone. personally, it doesn't matter to me if a book is in first or third person. but to some readers, it really does. so these are useful guidelines, but don't feel that if you are asking for RA help, you have to fill out some sort of mental checklist that encompasses all of these factors. just know that the more you analyze your own preferences, and learn how to articulate them to someone who has the right training, the chances of your being given a book you will enjoy increase.


message 6: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine | 455 comments i think that when you think about frame in this context it's the way that it is used in psychology. I think about it like the frame of a house instead of the frame of a picture. It's the basis the story is written around instead of the edges.


message 7: by Mir (new)

Mir | 191 comments White's madcap romp has a different appeal from Stewart's more serious, elegiac approach

Whaaaaah?! That was written by someone who did not understand White at all. Or literature. Just because something employs humor does not make it not serious. White's version addresses far more profound issues than Stewart's.

Cough. Um. Sorry. I see why RA is complicated!


message 8: by Kinga (new)

Kinga | 19 comments Hi Karen, (looks with when spelled with a capital letter, almost like it's some different Karen, not you)

Can we ask for non fiction books as well??


And what are the guidelines then?

:D


message 9: by karen, future RA queen (new)

karen (karenbrissette) | 1315 comments Mod
yes, of course. it is just usually applied to fiction, because they tend to have more more ambiguous titles and it is less clear what the tone of the book will be. with nonfiction it is usually more a level of scholarship that makes the difference. does this make sense?? it is 6:30 am, that brain - she sleeps.

miriam - oops - i thought that quote was good, but i have never read white and i read stewart when i was 12. saricks is infallible to me, so i didn't think to check her on that. sorry.


message 10: by Mir (new)

Mir | 191 comments Oh, I wasn't blaming you, karen. It is actually an interesting example to start with because it does emphasize how subjective these factors are.


message 11: by karen, future RA queen (new)

karen (karenbrissette) | 1315 comments Mod
no, it is good to have my gods toppled! in 3d!!


message 12: by Mir (new)

Mir | 191 comments Maybe Saricks only saw the movie ;)


message 13: by Lydia (new)

Lydia | 1 comments Thanks for this information, I had no idea there were "appeal factors" in a book. I just tend to read for the fun of it. I am interested in learning more about the little details and to be able to articulate what I am looking for in a book. I know I have a hard time describing what it is that I'm looking for in a book, so much so that I don't even bother to ask for help.


message 14: by karen, future RA queen (new)

karen (karenbrissette) | 1315 comments Mod
we are here with help!! ask anytime!!


message 15: by Nicole (new)

Nicole  (nimabu) | 2 comments Sorry I'm a bit confused, so I tell you more or less one thing for each of the appeal factors and that should give you an idea of what I like to read?


message 16: by karen, future RA queen (new)

karen (karenbrissette) | 1315 comments Mod
something like that. it isn't necessarily what you like to read, but what you would like to read right now. most people have broad taste ranges, but usually you will be in the mood for one specific book at one time. or maybe you read a book once that you really liked and you want to find a book that would evoke the same emotional response, or that would be a nice counterpoint to that title.

not every appeal factor is going to carry the same weight, either - they are really just guidelines, but the more specific a query is, the easier it becomes to make a match. but for example - it doesn't matter to me whether the story is told in first- or third-person, but to some people that does really matter.

it's more about finding the perfect book for a specific request, for a specific mood. a book you didn't even know existed, but becomes an instant favorite. kind of like match.com, but for books.


message 17: by Nicole (new)

Nicole  (nimabu) | 2 comments Gracias!


message 18: by Tooter (new)

Tooter (tooterkins) | 1 comments karen wrote: "characterization this one is more sensible. is the narrator first-person, recognizable, quirky, are there many different narrators, are there supporting characters that are interesting, is this cha..."
Can you explain what you mean by "unreliable narrator"? Is this someone who is intentionally trying to mislead the reader? Or...is this someone who is not intelligent or mature enough to relate a reliable story? Or...is it both?


message 19: by karen, future RA queen (new)

karen (karenbrissette) | 1315 comments Mod
an unreliable narrator is just a literary device that can be used to mislead the reader, or the reader could know from the outset that the narrator is unreliable and then it is more of a character study than a deliberate misleading. so it can take many forms: a character whose perspective may be limited or incorrect, someone who is unable to tell the full story because of physical or mental limitations, people who think they know what is going on, but don't, people who are lying to make themselves look innocent etc etc. there are many different kinds.


message 20: by Melliott (new)

Melliott (goodreadscommelliott) | 56 comments karen wrote: "something like that. it isn't necessarily what you like to read, but what you would like to read right now."

This is such an important distinction. In fact, my premise is that "mood" is the most important appeal factor of all. I like to read everything from Georgette Heyer to Robert Crais to Kate Morton to John Scalzi, but definitely not all in the same week! Am I feeling nostalgic, thoughtful, in need of intellectual stimulation, wanting to be amused without taxing my brain, craving an adrenaline rush? It's key to tap into that and find out what "feels" someone is wanting to experience.


message 21: by karen, future RA queen (new)

karen (karenbrissette) | 1315 comments Mod
absolutely! we all have very complicated reading tastes, and the trick is peeling away the layers to get someone to articulate their needs of the moment, and not just list titles they think will be "impressive." we all got guilty pleasures!


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