Ask a reader: Are you the hero?

The discussion on first person vs. third person narrative POV brought to light for me something that I seldom (actually never) considered: that not all of us are bystanders when we read — some readers are definitely active participants and consider themselves the main or side characters (or all of them) in any story.

After a bit of soul searching and considering, I discovered that I almost never “play” the hero.  I am NOT Lyra in The Golden Compass, definitely NOT Frodo from The Fellowship of the Ring, and was never and will never be any of the first person narrators from Wonder.  (Even though I CAN relate to all of them on certain level.)  To me, reading is to observe and watch and listen to other people’s lives.  Whether the narrator tells the story from the “I” or the “They” perspective, I am always an outsider looking in.  This, I suspect, might have contributed to my preferred type of book discussion: I want to concentrate on the craftsmanship of the author, on how he/she manages the various aspects of the tale, and feel impatient whenever someone else at the book club table starts relating personal stories that either validate or disqualify the characters’ experiences for them.  (” ‘I’ would have never done it!!”  “When ‘I’ was in 5th grade, someone in my neighborhood totally was like that.” “There is NO way that anyone growing up in the 70s, like ‘I’ did, would have felt this way.”)

However, now I started to see that perhaps, for others, reading IS about relating and becoming the main characters and putting oneself in the shoes of them and experiencing the make-believe world created within the covers as if all is REAL.

I really would love to hear from a host of readers in unpacking some of the following questions:

  • Do you read and feel that you are the main character (or side characters) in stories?
  • What kind of stories do you like most — totally fanciful? very realistic? uplifting? upsetting? dark? light? funny? serious? wise? irreverent? provocative? cozy? tender? harsh? (and so many more types)
  • Does it matter to you if the narrator is a 3rd person who sees everything (or only seeing through one character’s view) or a 1st person?  Which do you prefer?  Do you know why?
  • Have you changed as a reader regarding the above questions through the years?  Do you find yourself a different kind of reader now than when you were in middle school or younger? How so?

Perhaps there are other questions and answers… but this is a beginning point… Please share!