31.7.13

What Makes You Read About Someone Else's Life?

What with the birth of the newest UK royal, I've been thinking about what it is about the royals that fascinates people on a whole. Why do we still have monarchies in developed countries? Why are people willing to admire someone else simply for their genealogy or because they are in a position of power? But more so, why do people want to follow these people online via blogs, newspapers, pictures, etc?

Take Princess Catherine for example. She's beautiful, she's common, she's the girl-next-door turned biggest fashion icon of the decade. The media buzz around her as bees around flowers. She's got that je ne sais quoi.

What all this media hype really got me thinking about is how many novels center around royalty and fame. Many historical authors are famous for chronicling not normal people's lives, but royal lives. Today, it seems that celebrities are the royalty of the world. I'm not going to lie, I enjoy a bit of celebrity gossip every now and then, even though I don't care to meet any of these people. But there's a certain disconnect from the "glamor" of their lives and the mundane of mine. It's that very disconnect which makes me interested in them. I cannot imagine existing in that lifestyle--and I don't--so I'll read about it instead.

There are many actors that I will read an article about and be fascinated with. Despite my mild interest in their lives, I may not care for what I know about that person's character, and I have a feeling I would despise them if I knew them personally. (No, I won't name names, that's not my point.) But this leads me to the question: would I be willing to read a book about a character like them? Probably.

People like to read about lives different than theirs. What is more different than celebrities or royals? Essentially, those are real people put into a completely foreign way of life. People read in order to experience those other lives. Every book I read puts me in the life of a new person. I want that person to be quite different from me. I need to connect with them, but I do want their lives to surprise me, to be different from "the norm." I don't want to read about someone going to work unless they uncover their boss committing a crime, or they are madly in love with their engaged coworker, etc., etc. If all they do is go to work, clock in, work, clock out and go home--why am I reading? Why would I want to read about a life that isn't very different from my own?

This leads me to my WIP, of course, because nearly everything in my life makes me think of fiction (more specifically how I can improve my fiction). One of my more recent WIPs has a main character with famous parents. By default, she has a certain amount of fame. Now, I'm not naive enough to think that's enough of a hook for a reader. However, it can add certain amounts of complications. And those complications are of much greater weight if the entire world is watching. Fame throws a wrench into many plans, especially if the plan involves a secret. And that is a recipe rife for disaster. And aren't disaster and conflict the reasons we read? 

So while I am content to read about famous people, perhaps a famous character or two in my WIPs add opportunity for conflict that will keep the reader reading.

~I.E.