Classics vs. today’s books

» Posted on Nov 5, 2005 in Blog | Comments Off on Classics vs. today’s books

As you all probably know I teach high school. This semester I have a student teacher. My classes are studying The Good Earth right now in World Literature and a lot of my students aren’t thrilled with the story. My student teacher and I were discussing why some students today don’t like the classics. They complain there isn’t enough action and drama. They are too slow and don’t grab their attention from the first.

My take on this is that we have raised several generation of readers who have grown up on television, movies and video games. They are a visual group who want to be shown a story, not told a story. So as writers we will have to be especially careful to show rather than tell. But also so many stories are condensed down into an hour or two. The person knows how something ends relatively quickly–not hours and hours it may take a person to read a story. Instant gratification has become the norm in our society which is changing how we look at things.

I have to admit that a lot of the classics are hard to read. I love so many of the books that are out today. They are jammed packed with action and story. Usually a successful book doesn’t slowly evolve as some classics do. Writers are told we have to grab the reader on the first page, if not the first line or paragraph. We need to start in the middle of a scene where the main character’s life is about to change. Even twenty-five years ago when I started out writing, we were able to develop our characters more before thrusting them into the middle of the action/plot. You might have had one chapter devoted to the heroine and the next to the hero. The two might not have met until the end of chapter two or somewhere in chapter three.

So I have to agree how and what we are reading is changing and I think some of that is because of television, movies and video games.