Monday, March 19, 2012

10 Tips to Enhance Your Fiction Reading Experience

Here are some tips that may help make your fiction reading experience even more enjoyable.  Some of them may be obvious and well-known, but others may surprise you.

1. When you encounter a word you don't know, look up the meaning.  Yes, this is an oldie but a goodie.  And with the advent of ebooks and embedded dictionaries, it now only requires a couple of seconds and a minimum of physical movement.   Increasing your vocabulary not only deepens your understanding of the particular story you're reading, but makes you more articulate.  Experts agree that the ability to express yourself with just the right words is one of the most valuable skills any human being can develop.

2. Keep a reader's journal. As you digest a story, take a few minutes now and then to write down the elements that intrigue you, that tickle your fancy.  Cut and paste the passages that you find most interesting. Reflect on themthis will increase your self-awareness.  Again, digital technology has made this kind of thing much easier.   If you're so inclined, publish your journal as a blog and perhaps write book reviews as well.  

3.  Use your critical judgment to discover which aspects of a book you truly enjoy.  This builds on (2) above.   Ask yourself:  exactly what is it that I like about this book?  Is it something as simple as the genre/setting, or is it more subtle and deeper than thatthe character psychology, intricacies of plot, the storytelling style, or perhaps even the pacing?   Many readers complain that they can't find enough good books to read in a given genredoing this exercise may lead you to find books in other genres that are just as satisfying as those you normally read.

4.  Make your fiction reading a special experience.  Give this crucial activity the time and attention it deserves.  Don't just read books as a way to kill time or stave off boredom.  Set aside a special time and place, make yourself as comfortable as possible, relax in your favorite chair.  Make it a ritual, at least from time to timeimmerse yourself in the full experience.   Most people read novels primarily for entertainment, but you should never forget that reading fiction is also a valuable learning process that teaches important life lessons and enriches your knowledge of the world and how it works.

5.  Join a book group.  Compare your perception of the books you read with your friends.  You will likely see things in a different light than they do.  Sharing your views is a wonderful way to reach out to others and make new friends.

6.  Learn to make sensory associations.  If you are a music lover, imagine the "soundtrack" that might go along with the story you're reading.  You might even listen to this music as you read.  If you are artistic, imagine the illustrations that might appear at the beginning of each chapter or within the best scenes. Making sensory associations establishes the story more firmly in your memory and enhances the overall reading experience.

Google Street Maps - Alexander
Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria
7. Use the Internet to explore the settings in your favorite books.  Many novels feature real places, exotic locals and cultural points of interest.  These are easy to find online.  This helps make the story more vivid and adds to your knowledge of world culture and geography.  For example, in my book Lust, Money & Murder, a key scene takes place near the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria.  What does this church look like?  What's the general atmosphere around it?  Did the author do a good job of describing it, or do you perceive it differently?  It only takes a couple of clicks on Google Maps to find out. 

8. Tell the story to a friend. If you enjoyed a book that you have read, try to convince someone else to read it. This is a great way to practice your skill in influencing people. This exercise will force you to focus on the key points, to be succinct and engaging at the same time (you will have to relate the story in a sentence or two, something that we writers pull our hair out trying to do for our own books!) Take care to balance between telling just enough to intrigue your listener without revealing the most exciting parts. Think of it as making a movie trailer: you want to create a general impression of the story but you don’t want to give away any of the surprises.

9.  Engage in imaginary dialogue with the characters. Choose your favorite story people and imagine what you would say/do if you met them.  Even better:  imagine what you would do/say if you were him or her, even the villains.  Sometimes it's fun to be deliciously wicked in your imagination, or so headily noble that you feel like a saint.  Doing these kinds of exercises brings you more fully into contact with all the different parts of yourself and also increases self-awareness.

10.  When you finish a book, send the author feedback.  We listen, we really do.  I always read, with great interest, any and all feedback I receive, positive or negative, about any given book.  I won't say that I go as far as "pandering" to every reader whimI certainly have my own artistic vision for each storybut what readers like/don't like about one story plays an important role in shaping the next.  Sharing your feedback is a way for you, as a reader, to influence your future reading experience.

I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to improve your reading experienceplease feel free to share and comment below.


  1. I never thought of any of these. Gonna try them with the next bit of fiction I pick up.

  2. Lots of these tips work for improving your writing too.

  3. Talking about a book (or any kind of story) with someone who has also read it always adds to the experience, I find.

    Moody Writing
    The Funnily Enough

  4. Its a great experience on having to share some thoughts to someone, especially after having read a good book. It helps a more wiser and richer experience, I would agree.Thanks!

  5. Thanks so much! I never really tried this stuff. I guess my only problem is when and where I could also publish my book.

  6. Love this post! These are great ideas for writers to get the most out of their reading. Good stuff Mike!

  7. I've always tried to look up words I didn't know, but it was difficult when you're out and about. One of the many reasons I love my kindle (sure other e readers have the same, it's not a sales pitch) is that when you hover over a word it gives you the definition. Some words I thought I knew, turns out, I don't or rather, I don't fully understand.

  8. Thanks, very helpful indeed! Mike I am sharing it on my page.

  9. Oh I like the idea of keeping a reader's journal. I often make mental notes as I read. Being a writer myself, writing these notes in a journal as reminders might be very helpful. Especially when an author writes a great paragraph or relates a scene with high suspense. I read the classic master writers most of the time because they were so precise in their structure and form. And of course, they had a great deal of respect for the written word. The classics can still teach us about writing and reading skills.

  10. On the topic of sensory associations, I did this just today with a new story I'm writing. I found it fascinating that the music I (intentionally) turned on later in the day exemplified exactly what I'd written in the early morning hours. And then I read your post. Very interesting stuff. Funny...I'm reminded of Kevin Costner..."If you build it they will come"...if you write it they will feel...? :D