Reading a novel is not the same as reading a non-fiction. In fact, it’s easier to read novels than non-fiction books for a number of reasons. If you love to read novels, then dig in because just like you, I love novels.
My first question to you is this, have you ever thought about the way you approach novels? Like, in your subconscious mind while turning the pages, how do you read the whole ensemble?
These questions came to me one afternoon and I began to dig in to see how I approach the novels I read. After a careful observation of my reading process, I have come up with the three ways to read a novel. I am still on the path to discover if there are more to this list. Are you set to explore with me, 3 Ways to Read a Novel?
The first way of the three ways you read a novel is through the eyes of the writer. Pause for a moment and let your mind flashback to your reading experiences – which novel did you read as if it was the writers voice screaming at you off the pages? Common with autobiographies and writers whose voice you are already familiar with. Many times, when you turn the pages, it doesn’t appear that the characters are the one talking to you, you are definitely bewitched by the writers voice. Many things could be responsible for this, say for example, the technique and narrative point-of-view.
Another way you have been reading novels is through the eyes of the characters. When this happens, you are swept in and connect with the characters and whatever they suffer appears to be realer than just a story. The effect is that even after you have dropped the novel, you can’t shake off the experience and may go on for days feeling like the characters live within you.
I read Chibundu Onuzo’s Welcome to Lagos not so long ago and was quite disappointed at the end. I wished I could rip apart the pages, go to the world of the characters and rewrite the fate of Chike Ameobi from the point where the novel ended. Even as I write this, I still wish it was possible to rewrite his fate – make his habitation more than the ghetto of Makoko, he deserved more. Soft tears drop!
And I know you have read similar novels that draws you into the world of the character, some make you cry for no reason, some will make you want to scream at the characters and others just leave you hanging, even breathless.
If you ask me, I think this is the best way for me. Reading a novel like I am the author makes me think critical of the technique and the disposition of the writer. I get judgmental especially when it appears to me like the writer is trying to make a personal statement or take a stand that doesn’t compliment what I believe. I get to read novels promoting absurd movements from this critical point.
Finally, the last way on my three fingers list is reading the novel through the eyes of a gossip. It makes me feel like I am preying into the world of the characters. In Theatre and stage art, it is believed that the audience break through the walls of the proscenium to peep into the lives of the characters on stage.
That is exactly how reading some novel will make you feel – like you are snoozing out people’s life instead of living yours. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives is my nearest experience with reading a novel like a gossip. I was let into the world of this large family and all that connected to them, I laughed at their shenanigans, cried when Segi passed on, criticized some characters, loved some, hated some, pitied some too.
This approach accommodates a lot just like in real life. The characters don’t appear perfect to you, and you are comfortable having an opinion like a gossip knowing that whatever opinions you have, the characters have their choices to make. You don’t think of the story as a reflection of the writer and you don’t warm in too much to the characters as you would when reading it like they’re personal to you.
It is the safest way if you don’t want to get tangled with the emotions of the characters. In the second novel I mentioned, I became vulnerable to Segi’s plight especially when her transformation took place – from hating to loving her father’s third wife – Bolanle. But I know I couldn’t help her one bit, all I could do was sigh and remember that the world isn’t a safe place for one person more than it is for another.
And here, we close in, everything is about perspective in the end. This list is not a one-straight-route method, it is possible to have everything in one novel. I hope when next you turn the last pages of a novel, you can say, ‘I read that novel like the writer/character/gossip.’
Bingo! Don’t you stop reading.