Characters reading books

by Jacob
(Fouke, AR, USA)

Question: What is the best way to write about a character reading a book? I am writing in omniscient but mainly following one character. He is currently in a library about to be read the history of his country by the librarian (Sci-Fi world. Not a real country) I have the past pre typed and am ready for the writer to learn more about the history, which will unlock some new questions as well as answer a few the reader may have. I want to get this right so any help is greatly appreciated.

Answer: As with most situations, the key is to narrate the main character's perceptions and responses to what he perceives (thoughts, feelings).

If you want to include a lengthy history essay, that may seem a little impersonal. I would suggest you either make it personal (e.g. the personal diary of a historical figure) or make sure you include the main characters reactions to the information.

However, it is usually best not to deliver an "infodump." Providing little bits of information presented to the reader as needed is usually better than a long passage of information. For example, does the main character need to get the information all at once or can he take the book out of the library and read small passages at different times? Could he get the information from a variety of sources throughout the story?

Another approach is to have the information presented in the form of a dialogue between the main character and someone else (or different characters), so that the conversations can be used to reveal the characters' personalities and relationship.

If you know the Harry Potter books, think about how we never get a long passage from the book "Hogwarts: A History." Instead, Rowling has the character Hermione deliver little bits of information from the book whenever it is needed in the story (Hermione apparently being the only person who has ever read "Hogwarts: A History").

Comments for Characters reading books

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Thank you
by: Jacob

I had already begun doing exactly what you said in the form of dialogue, but I may have to much at one time. Thanks for the advice!

War Diaries
by: Twilight Dragon

I have also written something with this sort of thing, only to discover I don't know how to write war diaries properly and realistically.

Any hints there?

by: Anonymous

good post shared here.

Similar situation
by: Soph

Hi there,
I seem to be having a similar issue with my writing. I am in year 12 and the HSC is nearing - I have to write a short story but someone I just don't know how to encapsulate a character within the story. I want to have him/her reading a book - the story will follow a journey of realisation of sorts for the main character.
As you can tell I am still a little all over the place - any good recommendations for books I can read or advice?

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