Emotional Reactions to Stories

Either I have a cold, cynical heart, or I have a more (ahem) refined literary palette than most people. The reason I say this is because I frequently find myself puzzled at reader reactions to a lot of stories. For example, I’ll read through a given story and then be like, ‘Ok, that was nice. What’s next?’ I’ll appreciate the effort and art that went into writing that story and weaving that tale, but ultimately I’ll have decided that it was, for me, a bit of a yawner. Then I’ll read comments that people have written, comments raving about how good this story was, how exotic the imagery was, etc. And that is what leaves me feeling puzzled because I didn’t think it was _that_ good of a story.

Now, there _are_ stories that I love so much that I’ll rave about them for days. Just ask my wife. When I stumble upon a truly good one, I’ll go on about it at length for quite some time and usually come back and re-read it again later. ((Sometimes several times over.)) So, I can’t decide if a story leaves me unfazed because I can’t relate to it on an emotional level or because I simply have very different tastes in literature than a lot of people.

Honestly, I suspect it’s probably the latter because when I read a good story that really draws me in to the characters and events, it _does_ affect me on an emotional and intellectual level. The good ones leave me feeling thoughtful and introspective. I also suspect that a story’s impact on a reader is directly related to how relevant it is to that reader’s life experience, i.e. how close to home it gets. A story that deals with a topic about which the reader has little knowledge or experience is probably going to have less impact than one that speaks heavily to a reader’s background.

I will probably always be somewhat puzzled about why the vast majority of readers respond so enthusiastically to certain stories when said story barely causes a twitch from me. I’ve never been one to just gush over every story I read, and there’s only a handful of books in my own personal library that I’ve felt were good enough to read more than once.

Has anyone else had this experience, finding that a yawner of a story for you received rave reviews from nearly everyone else that read it? What was your reaction to that observation?

One thought on “Emotional Reactions to Stories”

  1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this one. I think we react to those things which stike a chord in ourselves. I feel the very same way as you do.

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